How to interest your child in debating, even if they hate public speaking

Every now and then a parent asks, ‘How can I get my child interested in debating?’

Most parents understand the benefits debating and want their child to be involved.

So what can you do to spark their interest?

Talk to your child about the benefits of debating, and how it helps them get ahead at school.

There are so many benefits to learning how to debate, but these ones seem to capture the attention of beginners:

1. Your child can broaden their knowledge of current affairs and get on top of ‘hot topics’ in the media

Debating requires students to have knowledge of the world around them. Students on the debating team are well-informed about world issues, politics and policy. If your child is already interested in current affairs and world events, debating gives them an opportunity to have a structured argument on key issues.

In debating, students develop an appreciation of a broad range of perspectives and learn to address issues from either side of the table. This knowledge feeds directly into school work as it means they can participate in class discussion, and they can reference ‘hot topics’ in essays and assignments.

2. Your child will develop skills in research and analysis, and start completing research assignments more efficiently

Does your child ever tell you it takes ages to research an assignment, before they even begin writing it?

There’s a straight-forward solution: hone your research and analysis skills.

A debating team may have only a few days to prepare for the debate, or may not find out whether they are affirmative or negative until an hour before. This means students must have performed thorough research and analysed their findings in a time-efficient manner. Debaters learn efficient ways to research and are taught techniques for managing their preparation time. Debaters also learn the importance of using trusted, well-informed and balanced sources for gathering information on a particular topic.

3. Your child will excel in argument

In debating, students learn how to structure an argument, and also learn the importance of backing up their points with sufficient reasons and examples.

Through rigorous preparation, debaters learn how to structure the argument to build to the main point and win over an audience. They learn the importance of examples to support the information and maintain relevance.

The ability to develop and present an argument is essential to written expression and essay writing – so the debating skills quickly become relevant in the classroom. Your child would actually be getting ahead if they were doing debating, because they’d learn critical analysis and how to structure an argument before it was addressed in school.

4. Your child will develop crucial communication skills that will make oral presentations waaaaay easier!

Regardless of the career path anyone takes, the ability to communicate effectively and think critically is instrumental to social, professional and academic success.

Debaters learn to use their voice to present their argument with clarity, confidence and conviction.

Debaters are taught language techniques such as anecdote and repetition to build rapport with the audience and communicate their argument with strength. They also learn the role of body language and nonverbal communication, and begin to recognise the nonverbal communication used by politicians and world leaders.

These skills make in-school presentations MUCH easier. After all, the best way to become a fluent and articulate speaker is to practise – and there’s no better time than when you have a team of peers standing by your side supporting you.

5. Your child can enjoy the social benefits of debating

Each school participates in different debating competitions, but almost all of them are inter-school competitions. Students debate against students from other schools, often visiting other schools for debates, and have the chance to talk with each other after the debate.

It’s a great way to meet other people with similar interests from outside an immediate network. The students at Viva Voice who are debaters are always talking about the people they’ve met through debating. One student this year even invited a friend from debating to the school formal!

The friends made through debating could end up being future peers at university or even colleagues. Chances are, they are also interested in speaking out about important issues.

6. If your child is interested in world issues, this is where they can begin to create change

It’s amazing how well-informed students are – they are across a range of world issues, and many of them express deep concern and disappointment about social justice and political decisions. The recent High School Panel on ABC’s Q and A showed us how informed and articulate young people can be.

Debating presents students with a different topic each week that is argued from either side of the table. This presents students with the opportunity to speak out against world issues, or step into the shoes of those whose beliefs are different from their own, and explore the topic in a contrasting light.

7. Read your child this extract from Yassmin’s Story

Yassmin Abdel-Magied was 2015 Queensland Young Australian of the Year. This extract is from her book, Yassmin’s Story:

“My father encouraged me into debating as soon as he saw my speech at the grade seven graduation.

‘Khalas, Yassmina. Do you want to speak on important issues?’ He asked me on the way home, and I nodded.

‘Tayib. When you start at JPC, make sure you join the debating team. If you are going to speak, you have to learn how to debate properly. The people you’ll come up against will be great speakers – you have to be better.’”

Yassmin’s words are an inspiration.

If your child shows interest in speaking on important issues, give them the advice Yassmin’s father gave her – encourage them to join the debating team.

Viva Voice has Debating and Public Speaking workshops coming up in January for all age groups.