New Parenting Toolkit Helps Families Learn Ways to Disagree Better

At the Nashville convening of the Disagree Better Initiative scholars from the Wheatley Institute at Brigham Young University and from Utah State University Extension unveiled Disagree Better: A Parenting Toolkit, a free online resource created to further the work of the Disagree Better initiative by providing tools to help American families learn how to better manage disagreements inside and outside of their homes.

Toolkit creators Dr. David Schramm, Associate Professor at Utah State University, and Dr. Jason Carroll, Family Initiative Director with the Wheatley Institute at Brigham Young University, joined the Disagree Better convening for a discussion moderated by Dr. Paul Edwards, the Executive Director of the Wheatley Institute at Brigham Young University.

During the convening, Drs. Schramm and Carroll outlined the core features of the new resource which offers three short e-courses designed to help parents learn and apply principles related to civility, kindness, understanding and respect. Each module takes only 20 to 30 minutes to complete, and the toolkit is an entirely free resource created to offer practical and actionable tips, tools and ideas to help parents and children manage differences in better ways.

Dr. Edwards began the discussion by noting that while “this is not an academic toolkit that we’re unveiling today,” considerable research was used to create the resource, including research underscoring the important role families have in “helping us to think about things like disagreeing better.”

Dr. Carrol agreed with Dr. Edwards, stressing, “as we designed the toolkit, we thought about the environments that children are in, and it begins with that personal, often private space of the home, where they see parental examples and patterns of how things happen. Then there’s the public and school and neighborhood experiences that they have. And then there’s the digital environment as well. So we wanted to think about each of those environments and the types of examples they get. But it starts with that home environment, and the research is pretty clear about that. That parental example is really powerful in how kids think about others, talk about others, interact with others.”

Dr. Carrol shared that the program is self-guided, self-paced, and designed to help parents bring the teachings into their homes and interactions with their loved ones. He continued, the “big thing from the research is that family relationships are the great amplifier. They can take everything that is positive and healing, and healthy and valuable and nurturing and amplify it in a way that almost no other relationships can. [Family relationships cans] amplify all that is positive and all of that good, but [they’re] also the great amplifier for conflict … [That’s why] we intentionally designed the [first module] for parents to take a look at themselves. The second module is within the home: how do we do this with each other. And then the third is, how do we take you to school community in those settings?”

Dr. Schramm stressed, “We’ve got to be able to make time for these discussions … our greatest example is us in the home, what we say, and how we live.” That’s why the toolkit asks “parents to take an honest look, a self-assessment, with questions on there that they can say, ‘How do I?,’ ‘What is my example?,’ ‘Do I get on the phone and talk about somebody and then hang up, and I talk about them bad to my kids?,’ ‘How am I in public?,’ ‘Am I yelling at the referee?’ And so it really starts with us as individuals and with parents.”

NGA Chair Utah Governor Spencer Cox noted the Disagree Better initiative is working to help address some of the divides impacting Americans’ personal relationships with resources like the toolkit, with the Governor sharing the timeliness of the project as “we heard some pretty stunning statistics that 20 to 25 percent of Americans have ended a familiar relationship because of politics.”

Disagree Better: A Parenting Toolkit joins other learning opportunities Governor Cox has been promoting through his NGA Chair’s Initiative. For example, in November 2023, Governor Cox and NGA Vice Chair Colorado Governor Jared Polis participated in a conversation at Colorado State University, which focused the 2023-2024 school year on the theme “Year of Democracy and Civic Engagement.” Following the event, Colorado State University Global (CSU Global) launched a fully online course, called Disagree Better, to teach healthy conflict styles and strategies to find resolution to political disagreements.

The Disagree Better: A Parenting Toolkit and CSU Global course lend to a number of existing educational resources Governor Cox has been highlighting through his social media channels, media appearances and events held to raise awareness about the Disagree Better initiative. Each learning opportunity, such as online classes and social media campaigns, is designed to provide people with the tools needed to foster healthy disagreement and reduce political division and polarization in their homes, places of work and communities.

Individuals interested in learning ways to join the Disagree Better movement can visit the Disagree Better inspiration and action webpage for the latest information about the initiative, including resources designed to help Americans bring the Disagree Better ideas and principles to their homes, communities and political engagement.