Do you remember the very first time your beautiful child argued back? I have a vivid memory of the day. My son could not even form words yet. He was sitting in his highchair and apparently abhorred his selection! His face scrunched up and the string of non-sensical baby expletives was so emphatic that I still feel their sting when I remember it!
When do children begin to develop argument skills? Very, very, impossibly young!
They are, of course, not ready to develop those outbursts into developed rhetoric, but they have begun on a journey of self expression that will - if guided carefully - allow them to enter adulthood with excellent skills of persuasion. How do we best flesh out these arguments and teach children to express themselves respectfully, prove a point thoroughly, and win their opponent's regard (if not change their mind)?
1. Persuasive Argument Matters in Life
There is not a person in our society that does not need the skill of persuasion. No matter what situation we are in persuasion is powerful. In personal and domestic life, we need to advocate for ourselves, ideas, and beliefs. In the commercial world, we need to recognize when we are being "sold" and when arguments are invalid, incorrect, or fallacies. In the business world, we need the art of persuasion to market ourselves, make wise decisions, and negotiate wages and advancement.
2. Start Young - Model Questioning
Education is not a curriculum. We do not need a book to teach persuasion to young children; we need only to be in constant conversation with them. Ask questions:
Why do you think that is true?
What makes you believe that?
Are they a good source of that information?
What makes a good source?
Do you think everyone believes that?
What reasons do you think that person has for disagreeing?
Teach your child to be a thinker, a questioner... and yes they will question you and your ideas too! That is another good opportunity to ask questions to make them think and consider.
3. Teach Research
Even before your student is writing essays it is good to learn about research. Find the answers to your questions. Find good sources! What makes a good source? Look for education and experience and consider conflicts of interest. Learn together perhaps, to check for the sources for those secondary sources online. Check and see if they have links to studies or research or are they just throwing ideas out there that they say are based on studies? What studies? When? Have there been other studies that contradict these ones? (are you seeing a pattern of questioning here? Do not believe easily even if it agrees with your world view or political bent)
4. Actively Organize Argument
After you have found the facts, choose a point you want to prove and then prove it with the research. Speeches and essays are the most traditional way to do this.
THE PERSUASION ESSAY
Ready to start writing? You can download your free persuasion essay outline here.
I won't begin here to teach the process for the entire persuasion essay, but I will give a few pointers. There are a few important details to remember when you are writing a persuasion essay.
1. Remember your audience: Who are you trying to convince? If you are writing an essay to convince me that parents should get an all inclusive all expenses paid holiday every year you would use very different language than if you are trying to convince a politician that a there should be a reduced speed limit in your residential area.
2. Stay on Task: If it does not convince the reader then leave it out. Stick to the basics that matter; be clear, concise and to the point.
3. Use good Logic: Make sure that your proofs prove what you think they do and be careful of using bad logic. I recommend Your Logical Fallacy Is website to learn more about this. Our media uses poor logic on a regular basis and it has become so normal that many people don't even notice!
4. Show your Sources: If you do not have a source for a fact then that fact does not count! period.