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A House Divided: How to Debate Tough Issues and Stay Related

September 5, 2020

Remember when people used to call a house divided one where both a Sun Devil and Wild Cat lived? GASP!!!!

Those were the days! Things have changed a lot lately and while politics and all issues seen from the left, the middle and the right is nothing new, we have a more divided country than possibly ever before, right now in 2020.

Now families may have gotten so heated at our own kitchen tables that sometimes it can feel like WWIII is actually happening! Or maybe it's virtual war that takes place just on social media with memes and videos and emojis!

Either way, it is quite likely that there are as many differing opinions in one home or family as there are family members. Teenagers are becoming informed and continuing to develop their opinion and identity. This is a good thing!!

How we each family member be heard, understood and known for what we believe and to curb the judgment, assumptions, and name-calling that is happening between moms and sons, dads and daughters, grandparents and grandchildren?

So without picking sides or discussing any particular side of any particular issue in this article, let's talk about how we can cool off, calm down and use these stressful times to develop a new way of communicating with each other on politics or ANY area of life where we might see things differently than the next person.

(I have a story about a kid (13) and his parents from just this last week who were at MAJOR odds, enough to call me in, over a disagreement that was about the world at large, basically human rights.) I can talk about that and then I have a solution!!!!!!!

We can show people one possible way of using a debate format to make time, space and ground rules for families to intentionally discuss their hot topics and hot buttons. The debaters must be respectful, refrain from any sort of sarcasm, name calling, unresearched assumptions, respect the time limit.

ROLE PLAY DEBATE summary: each person in the family can take on a role (random or chosen) of the stake holders of a specific issue, like if it was an academic issue, one person could be the teacher, the student or the principal. then each person is allowed a certain number of minutes to state their point with no interruption. That is the simplest way. This would be best for younger kids, like 8-11. No need for anyone to win or lose here. It's not meant to be a contest in the way I'm presenting this idea. It's mean to create an opportunity for a civilized conversation that is set up in a formal way. Ground rules and cool heads are required.

A more advanced form of debate is to allow for questions and rebuttals.

Here is a link for a printable debate format.

Here is a link for more great debate format ideas.

Families should make a family agreement to only discuss these types of issues during a formal debate session instead of picking fights all day and night, in person, on social media and on the phone.

The whole point is that we want to teach our teens (AND MODEL!!!) how to have a respectful conversation about difficult, emotionally charged topics. I don't recommend voting or judging, just having a safe place to communicate our thoughts and opinions without being disparaged, interrupted or disrespected.

If we sway each other, that is secondary. The point is to listen and be heard.

Like a chess or boxing match, a dual or a basketball game, when it's over, the opponents shake hands, maybe even hug it out, and leave with a great respect for the player who challenged them, made them stronger and ideally more compassionate about humanity!

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