Debate – Allowing Children to Express their Views

Opposing viewpoints – the world certainly seems to spin around that, particularly the digital world.

When we are children our world-view may be distorted or capped by limited understanding. Most times the adults in our lives shield us from some (sometimes harsh) realities and our capacity to process the “facts of life” is not fully developed. People differ on how to raise children. Especially today, where the psychology of it all is considered more than it ever was.

In the past most of society had the ‘be seen and not heard’ attitude towards children and for it’s time it may have served the purpose.Scientists tells us that by age seven, children typically begin to reason. They begin to internalize a lot more and recognize the difference between right and wrong. Their increased capacity for empathy causes them to gradually shut down their ‘no-filter’ approach to expressing themselves.

Filter or no filter, children do have opinions and though this may be processed through the child-coloured lenses making them a little more optimistic;  they need to be heard.

At a younger age children tend to hold a rather uncompromising sense of right and wrong. As they approach teenage-hood they are influenced more by other factors and they will tend to disagree more than agree with adults (especially parents) openly or quietly. As a parent, you grow to accept that opposing viewpoints will rule for a couple of years. Sometimes we prefer to blame the ‘hormones’ than to engage in unending squabbles about everything under the sun. However, we forget that young as they are, they are individual entities and this is a critical time in their development.

For parents with opinionated children/teens, rather than shut them down, why not turn it into something constructive like having family debates and conversations on different subjects e.g current affairs, culture, art, science and even mundane topics like who should do what and why. While the typical African parent is loathe to ‘argue with a child’ constructive debate should be encouraged.

The ‘blessing’ of the covid-19 pandemic is that it has allowed more family-time for most. Why not use this time to learn about what your child thinks, how they have come to their conclusions and positively  influence their opinions.

In school, debate clubs are typically made of the more out-going and out-spoken types and this is understandable because putting yourself ‘out there’ at an age where self-consciousness is at its peak is not easy. This does not mean that the introverts have no opinions.While we cannot all become pundits, we all have opinions and expressing them at home with family is definitely safer than in front of an audience or on twitter where you are likely to get digital stones thrown at you from those with opposing viewpoints.

At Turi, Rhino Cup debates internally and with other schools are a highlight of the school calendar. Having structured debates on a wide array of topics is good for development of critical thinking skills, encourages wide reading and research, improves collaborative skills and enhances public-speaking skills. Speaking in front of an audience is also a great confidence booster too.

So what does your child think about the current status of the world, the pandemic, tradition, fashion, religion, money and life in general? Do you agree or disagree? and how much of their current views are influenced by you, the parent.

Watch this Rhino Cup Debate from earlier in the year that resonates with recent debates on compensation of artists in Kenya.







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