My point against yours, i.e. the difficult art of using arguments

Family time
It’s worth learning to talk and discuss. (Nicholas Githiri/
It’s worth learning to talk and discuss. (Nicholas Githiri/

History is full of important speeches from various people. What makes some of them really change the world? How did they affect people to the point of taking action? Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech contributed to the complete abolition of racial segregation. The words of Emmeline Pankhurst: “The argument of the broken pane of glass is the most valuable argument in modern politics” urged suffragettes to break the windows of politicians who were against giving women the right to vote. Where would we be if it wasn’t for them? So, let’s think about what might help us make our case. 

Look for arguments  

Finding and presenting the right arguments is a real art that can take a lot of effort. It’s necessary to dig into the topic and think about all the pros and cons. It’s worth developing this skill and you can use our exercise to do this.  

Refer to the behaviour or preferences of the child who doesn’t take care of themselves. Ask them: if they met someone who, for example, wants candy for breakfast, lunch and dinner, what arguments could they use to encourage them to lead a healthy lifestyle? To make it easier for you to start this conversation, you can draw inspiration from the story of eight-year-old Arief from the Indonesian island of Sumba, the hero of our scenario for classes in self-care. Read his letter with your child!

How to convince others

Why else is it worth learning about debating mechanisms? Knowing them not only increases the chance of achieving our goal, but also reduces our susceptibility to manipulation. So, how do we create effective arguments and find them in the statements of others? This can be a valuable lesson for young minds that are still developing and for you, a reminder of the skills you need. We encourage you to take a look at materials regarding rhetoric for helpful tips. 

So, what if you’re right?  

Sometimes, even the arguments we consider flawless fail to convince others. We wonder why a logical explanation doesn’t change someone’s opinion. Where does this resistance come from?  

Well, our beliefs are not entirely rational. They are created by our experiences and emotions. Beliefs are not only our opinions and values, but also our vision of the world and ourselves. They are what we live by. So, we fight for them and we demand respect for them. Therefore, it’s not easy to change them without questioning our opinions of ourselves. No wonder we can defend them fiercely. Well, it’s not difficult to start an argument, which often, especially for small children, can seem like the end of the world. That is why it’s worth raising this issue and trying to defuse these concerns.  

Ask your child to remember their last quarrel. Who did they argue with? What about? Was it possible to reconcile and how did it all start? Talk about how they feel when they are arguing with someone and can’t reach an agreement for a long time. Then, ask how they felt when they made up with who they argued with. Share your own experiences with your child. Note that we sometimes argue about little things, but that doesn’t necessarily mean, for example, the end of a friendship. The most important thing is that each of us should be willing to reconcile. 


The power of talking is the power of understanding 

How to understand why someone rejects our rational arguments? What makes someone think in their specific way and how does it feel when we question it?  

And how would you feel if someone suddenly told you that what you believed in made no sense, was stupid or even harmful? Wouldn’t you take this as an attack on yourself? Wouldn’t you feel that someone is questioning the meaning of what you have believed and been doing so far?  

The key to understanding why someone thinks what they think is by talking. It allows us to get to know someone’s beliefs and emotions that accompany it. It enables us to understand the problem and adjust our arguments or, sometimes, having seen the potential costs, give the persuasion up and grant the other person the right to stick with their opinion. Well, sometimes we might even be the convinced party... 

How to listen and understand?  

In order for the conversation to be successful, both parties should feel heard out and understood. One tool that can be used for this is paraphrasing, i.e. repeating with your own words the statement we are listening to. A paraphrase is free from evaluations and judgements, it refers to the content of the statement and to the emotions and needs of the person we’re talking to. By using it, we show our interlocutor that we are listening, but we also have a chance to ask additional questions, if something seems unclear to us. 

Understanding emotions 

An important element of the conversation is understanding the emotions that may accompany our interlocutor. Does what they’re talking about make them sad and angry, afraid or nervous? Is he embarrassed or furious? Emotions are often behind our decisions, blocking us or pushing us to do things we don’t want to do. That is why it’s so important to teach children to recognise, name and safely express their emotions from an early age, because access to them makes it easier to understand the emotions of others. Practise it with your child.  

When you play with your child and a story is created or when you watch their artwork, take the opportunity to talk about different feelings and emotions and how you experience them. Every time you introduce an event that affects the heroes of the story, ask your child: how might... (character name here) feel? What does their body look like, what is happening to them? What might they be thinking? How would they feel if...? What would they look like? What would be happening to their body? Thanks to you discussing the experiences of another person, an imaginary or painted character, you can gain perspective when talking about feelings that are more difficult for you to express on a daily basis or when you’re struggling to cope.


All source materials are prepared by the team of Kulczyk Foundation’s Education Department in cooperation with teachers and experts – pedagogists, psychologists and cultural experts – and verified by an experienced family therapist Kamila Becker. Kinga Kuszak, PhD, Professor of Adam Mickiewicz University, Faculty of Educational Studies, provides content-related supervision over Kulczyk Foundation’s educational materials. All materials are covered by the content patronage of the Faculty of Educational Studies of Adam Mickiewicz University.

The article was published on 27.05.2020 on the website of Instytut Dobrego Życia (Good Life Institute)

Authors: Marta Tomaszewska (Kulczyk Foundation) and Anna Woźniak (Instytut Dobrego Życia)