“THAT’S A FACT”—OR IS IT?
What’s “obvious” to one person is often ridiculous to another—and when two people who are sure of opposing “facts” meet, things can get ugly very fast, whether the two people are Democrat and Republican, teacher and student, or parent and offspring.
It’s especially painful being challenged by someone you feel responsible for instructing. But before you break out the “How dare you” guns, take a deep breath and try to be objective.
Are You Sure of Your Facts?
As the saying goes, what we “know” often isn’t so—especially when we get our information secondhand. Take a careful look at your sources before you get too attached to them. Consider whether you might be relying on information that’s incomplete, out of date, or inaccurately remembered. Ask kids for the objective facts behind their claims: a source you were inclined to dismiss may know better than you gave it credit for.
Is Anyone Really All Wrong?
Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, both sides have valid points: and having more facts correct in total doesn’t absolve you of responsibility to learn from the other party. If you take a “no gray areas” attitude, you’re robbing yourself of a chance to grow—and your children of an opportunity to learn respect by example. They won’t even learn anything regarding the immediate point: the insult to their pride will keep them from taking even provable facts seriously. Try, instead, sincerely thanking them for new insights they’ve given you.
What’s Really At Stake Here?
If your child bullies a classmate because “she’s too dumb to have feelings: everyone says so,” that’s one thing. But if your child insists that a Slinky should “walk” upstairs or clouds are made of cotton candy, you don’t always have to set her straight immediately. Often, facts found through personal trial and error are better internalized than ones handed down by all-knowing adults—especially since, like it or not, kids don’t really consider us that all-knowing.
Above all else, make certain you aren’t placing your own pride in the “most important stakes” slot:
- If kids are relying on hearsay, avoid rubbing their noses in that.
- Skip the “I told you so’s” if it turns out you were right.
- If you were wrong, completely or in part, admit it without excuse.
If you win an argument at the cost of a relationship, you’ve accomplished little of value. And here’s one more fact you can take to the bank:
Every child has a right to personally develop critical thinking skills. If we help enough of the next generation learn that early, we’ve done a great service toward building a society that relies less on polarized opinions and more on true facts!