5 Tips To Improve Your Child's Debating Skills
Do you want your child to be a great orator? Imparting and improving debating skills in her will go a long way in making her a distinguished speaker.
By Ashwin Lobo
12-year-old Priya is a student at a prominent school in Bengaluru. In her public speaking class, her tutor assigns her a tricky topic for debate and asks her to speak for the motion. The topic of the debate is, 'Parents should restrict children from going outside alone in the evenings'. She sets out her two main arguments and calmly sticks to her guns as her classmates pepper her with questions. Having started at the age of ten, Priya is already one of the best debaters in the class and receives a word of praise from her tutor when the session finishes.
Debating is an activity in which arguments are put forth by two sides with opposing view points on a singular topic. Depending on the competition, each side may either comprise a team or an individual speaker. Debates are usually formal in nature and are governed by a set of rules which usually allow for questions and rebuttals. The speakers are judged based on a number of criteria that include analysis, clarity, delivery and enunciation. One might think that the mark of a good debater is excellent speaking skills, but listening is equally important. Debaters must be able to keenly listen to their opponents' points and thereafter come up with a suitable response, on the spot.
All children should be encouraged to participate in debating and, ideally, they should start young. This is because the activity of debating imparts many valuable skills to young minds that will be of use to them even beyond school and college. Some of the benefits of debating are:
- Expands knowledge beyond the academic purview
- Increases confidence and self-esteem
- Imparts critical thinking skills
- Improves research and analytical abilities
- Develops the ability to form balanced evidence-backed arguments
- Enhances clarity and structure of thought
- Develops effective oratory skills
- Encourages teamwork
Encouraging your child to debate regularly will hone his speaking skills and do wonders for his confidence. However, a lot of children experience stage-fright to a certain extent when they are called upon to speak publicly. As a parent, here are some things you can do to eliminate this phobia in your child, improve his confidence and make him a great debater.
Tips to improve your child’s debating skills:
- Underline focussing on facts: A debate consists of communicating sound evidence in a convincing manner. The validity of the facts expressed holds more importance than the charisma of the speaker; so, make sure that your child’s research is thorough before she participates in a debate. Additionally, make sure that none of the facts contradict each other. Any contradictions will be sure to be picked up by the opposing team when they are asking questions.
- Stress on knowing both sides of the story: Not only should your child do his research before presenting his arguments, he should also have a good idea of what his opponent is going to speak about. This will allow him to notice any inconsistencies in the opposing team’s argument as well as enable him to ask quick questions when it’s time for the rebuttal. Remind him that winning the debate depends not just on the strength of his own argument but also on his ability to weaken the opponent’s.
- Pick interesting practice topics: The only way your child will want to participate in a debate is if he has an interest in the activity. A good way to spark his interest and improve his abilities is to pick practice topics that are to his liking. For instance, if your child is a keen sportsperson, pick a topic such as, ‘Schools should focus more on academics than sports’. Encourage him to do research on this topic and to argue it from both sides. This will serve as good practice for him, boost his interest in debating and improve his self-confidence.
- Emphasise structured arguments: When teaching your child how to debate, it is important to emphasise that she presents her points in a structured manner. Before she begins presenting her arguments, she should briefly introduce the topic that she is speaking about in order to give some context to the judges and the audience. She should then move on to her main arguments and present these in a systematic manner. Every point should lead to the next and the argument should not appear disjointed. She should also conclude the argument effectively by briefly summarising all her points.
- Encourage logical thinking: Focusing on thinking logically rather than emotionally is essential, if your child wants to effectively get his point across. Advise him to make a list of his points and prioritise the ones that are most important. This will serve as a reminder to him to remain unruffled and not digress from his main arguments even if his opponent tries to throw him off track with difficult questions. Having a clear idea of what he has to say will also make him feel more confident.
Debating in school is a sure-shot way of making your child an accomplished orator. The skills that a child picks up while debating will be of great help to him not just in his career but also in his everyday interactions. So encourage him to debate often and watch as he grows up to be a confident and coherent adult.
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