If you’ve got a nay-saying tantrumer on your hands, check out this “Argue with me!” article by Jay Heinrichs at Wondertime.com. It’s an interesting and amusing look at how one dad has molded his once-upon-a-time tantrumers into deft debaters. It gives me hope that we can harness Will’s strong-willed opinionated spirit and help him become a master lawyer or just a generally persuasive speaker in a decade or two or three. I say he’s still a good year away both from grasping logic enough to be able to piece together a compelling argument in the midst of some of his powerful emotions and from letting go of some of his completely bizzare notions about what he’d like to do.
I may start asking for some good arguments when we’re debating a little issue I don’t mind giving in on, but inviting him to use his barely-three-year-old logic on us would probably end in frustration all around in some cases. (Do you really want to tell a sobbing kid who’s just had a bedtime accident and is now insisting that he wants to keep wearing his wet underwear – yes these are the beautiful ones with cars that inspired him to forego his nighttime diaper in the first place -- that he needs to use better logic to persuade you that he should keep them on? In fact, Will’s already doing about as well as he can in the logic department on these rhetorical debates. “They’ll dry out!” he says to me, eyes pleading. The logic’s creeping in – but so much illogic remains.)
Heinrichs -- who points out that, even with each other, many adults choose to avoid arguments rather than embrace them as opportunities for healthy, lively communication -- is working with a 5-year-old daughter and a son somewhere upwards of 7 and teaching them to employ the old Greek rhetorical devices of logos, ethos and pathos in their debates. “To disagree reasonably a child must learn the three basic tools of an argument,” he says. When his kids tell him about a dispute with a peer, instead of the old “Use your words,” advice he’ll say, “See if you can talk him into it.” And he makes a point of letting his kids talk him into things that are reasonable too.
I kind of like the idea of envisioning every butting-of-the-heads with Will as just another teaching moment, one more tiny step on the long, long road of teaching him the art of disagreeing reasonably.