Dad: Time’s up.

Timmy: But Dad, one more. . .

Dad: Time’s up is time’s up. We have to keep this fair. (Turns to Mom.) Sound’s pretty convincing, doesn’t it, Mom?

Mom: I’ll say!

Dad: (Turning to Sarah.) Well, Sarah. You need to negate Timmy’s proposal. You have two minutes to offer your rebuttal. Ready? Go!

Sarah: Well, you may think that’s convincing, but Timmy is twisting the facts a bit. First of all, my studying for school is far more important than pounding some boards together in the backyard. I couldn't put off my testing, but Timmy’s fort could wait all summer. Second, Timmy did the lunch dishes as a punishment for not making his bed this morning, not out of the kindness of his heart. I shouldn’t be punished for his punishment. If anyone should get out of dishes, it is me. If we want to talk about doing other people’s chores, I mowed the entire lawn this afternoon and walked the dog, while Timmy was pounding away on his fort. When I asked him to empty the grass clippings, he put up a fuss and complained the entire time. As far as I’m concerned, Timmy doesn’t deserve getting out of dishes.

Dad: That’s 1:42. Not bad timing, and excellent arguments.

Timmy: They were okay.

Dad: (To Timmy.) Well, kiddo, you’re fighting for air. You have one minute to make your final rebuttal. Go!

Timmy: Sarah can say all she wants about how her testing is somehow superior to my fort-building, but she didn’t refute the fact that rain could keep me from building the fort in the future. So what if I did the lunch dishes as a punishment — I still did them, didn’t I? Sarah loves it when I have to do her chores as punishment. As I recall, she went bike riding while I slaved away in the kitchen. And I didn’t fuss and complain when Sarah asked me to empty the grass clippings. I would have loved to do the lawn, but, as you know, I am not old enough to use the mower. Why should I be punished for something that is out of my control? And one more thing. . .

Dad: Time’s up!

Timmy: Aw, but Dad. . .

Dad: No, Timmy, time is up. (To Mom.) Well, Mom, it was a good round. Now we have to make a decision. What do you think?

Mom: It’s a tough one.

Now Mom and Dad will make their decision based on how well they think their son and daughter presented their arguments. Ordinarily, situations like this could have ended up in a bickering fight. Mom and Dad stepping in and resolving the conflict may have ended the arguing, but the kids wouldn't have learned much. In debate, winning and losing is not the objective; the goal is to articulate your arguments to communicate the truth in a persuasive manner.

To find out who was most persuasive in this dinner table debate, tune in next week for Part 2!  

Chris Jeub, a former teacher from the upper midwest, is Web editor to Focus on the Family's Web site. He is also president of Training Minds Ministry, an organization dedicated to training young minds in the arts of speaking and persuasion. He is author of many home-school resources, one being "Jeub's Complete Guide to Speech and Debate," a textbook written specifically for homeschools. You can view more about Chris Jeub and Training Minds Ministry at