Finding the right tone to strike when defending a belief can be tricky and, quite honestly, takes a lot of practice. If the topic is a hot button for you, it can be hard to keep anger in check when someone offends you. Or if you tend to be very averse to any kind of confrontation, you might be tempted to just let it go and not defend your belief.
I (Nadine) feel that striking a balance between the two approaches is a goal that will satisfy both the desire to defend but not to argue. As the mom of a daughter with Down syndrome, I have had to defend her on countless occasions. Sometimes I have done it awkwardly and probably ineffectively and other times I have been able to strike the right balance. I do know one thing for sure; not defending her is not an option. I would rather live with others disliking me than me disliking myself.
In working with teenagers, they inevitably are going to use the r-word now and again. Since I have had to address the use of this particular version of hate speech so often that, sadly, I am quite experienced. So when it was said just last week, it was routine for me. We sit down on a bean bag and I explain. I don’t get angry but I am also crystal clear. This is my center, that language offends me and it will not be allowed here and let me tell you why. I pull out my phone and show a photo of my beautiful daughter. She is why it is not allowed and she is why my social skills center exists. I always tell the teen that if they should ever be so lucky to meet my daughter, the words that they should say to her are “thank you.”