What you as parents can do
- Encourage your child and model active listening to other people by using positive body language – eye contact, attentive body position and reflecting what has been said through rephrasing for understanding or direct answering of points raised or made.
- Model fairness where possible and take time to explain when ‘fairness’ cannot be applied to a situation (because of a wider scale of fairness than simply personal to your child or family).
- Encourage discussion about issues and try to offer opposing views, taking devil’s advocate positions sometimes to force recognition of differing points of view, even when they are contrary to your own strongly held opinions (difficult as that can sometimes be).
- Encourage your child to speak up about things over which they hold strong convictions. This may be highly personal or it might be a wider school/community issue. Where they are especially shy, encourage them to work on strategies to enable their voice to be heard, letters to the local paper for example, if public speaking is too daunting (as it often is for anyone, let alone the young).
- When contentious issues are raised in the press or on TV encourage (ideally by doing it together) investigating as many sides of the issue as possible, using paper or electronic research means e.g. the real situation surrounding asylum seekers, Islamic practices, terrorism and other press-inflated issues.
- Encourage your child to look for ideas and help (for themselves or friends).
- Encourage your child to be assertive in offering their ideas, even when they are in a minority. It is important that they realise the significant difference between assertion and aggression and how to keep the moral high ground in discussions by not becoming aggressive. This can be done by helping them see when aggression might be the only desirable course – self-defence in a nasty situation in the streets for example. Otherwise it will get in the way of real discussion and useful decision making.