Politics and Kids

15 Sep
Photo by R. Ryan Dacca

In the last issue of my favorite parents magazine, Brain, Child, there was an article discussing whether or not you should raise your child with your political values.  Each side of the argument was represented by a mom’s opinion.  Both positions were well written and thought provoking.   Obviously, some thoughts were provoked in my brain, because I’m still thinking about this and decided to post about it!

I’m not exactly sure which side I fall on.  First of all, I should mention that I don’t define myself as either Republican or Democrat and feel no “party loyalty.”  In general, I distrust politicians and bemoan our political system that is so wrapped up in media hype that answers and truth are difficult, if not impossible, to come by.  For years I remained “apolitical,” and shrugged off and shut out any kind of political talk.  Something changed with the last two elections.  I became energized.  I realized, I DO have passionately held values that I want to see in political candidates and their policies.  No vote equals a vote of apathy, and that’s not where I want to stand anymore.  Now, at election time, I carefully listen to debates (on all sides) and read as much as I can on the candidates and their policies.  So, I guess you can call those my “political values.”

Now, back to the argument at hand.  I think that mostly I fall on the “No – Kids need to think for themselves” side.  I want to teach Jenna to be a critical thinker.  To carefully examine both sides of an issue before she makes a decision.  To realize that there are rarely issues that are either black or white, and that quite often the gray area is huge.  I want her to be a good listener.  I don’t want her to simply parrot what she’s heard me, Hubby, or ANYONE say.  As Lora points out, if she would be that easily swayed by what I say, how easily might she be swayed by peer pressure into behaviors with possibly horrible consequences??  I would rather teach her to do as my bumper sticker boldly admonishes: “Question the Answers.”

At the same time, I don’t think I’m being realistic if I don’t point out that Jenna is going to see me modeling behaviors that support my values, and that modeling IS teaching.  Just like Liz, my values are important enough to me that I want to share them with Jenna.  I want to make the world a better place, and I want her to learn that too. Liz mirrored my thoughts when she said:

Mostly I strive to teach my kids lessons one would be hard-pressed to contest: Be kind to other people. Help people less fortunate than you. Share your toys. Clean up after yourself. Just take one piece, and leave the rest for other people. Don’t litter. Play nice. As they grow older, it’s a logical next step to explain that there are some people in the world who exemplify these ideals better than others. And that some of those people go into politics. And that we have the responsibility to vote for them so they can keep doing the good things that we want them to do.

Do I think that those values are necessarily embodied in one political party?  Not at all.  But I DO want Jenna to share my “political values” of searching for my personal values in a candidate.  Of working to make a change in the world.

In the past, I’ve attended peace rallies, candlelight vigils, peaceful protests, and helped “get out the vote.”  Will I force Jenna to come along to things like this?  No, but I’ll still go if I feel strongly motivated, and I’d like her to have the option.  I’d like to talk to her about my reasons, but also about the other side of the issue and then let her choose.  I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say that I’d love it if she decided to come along.  Will I dress her in Obama t-shirts NOW (at the age of two) or have her hold a sign at a rally?  Tempting, but no.  However, I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t tell you that my heart sings just a little bit when she points out an Obama sign and  joyfully exclaims, “Ohhhh-BAMA!”  (I think right now her joyful “choice” is based on how fun his name is to say).  If, eventually, she chooses a different stance on some (or all) of the values I profess, will I love her any less?  Of course not.  As Lora said, “If I can’t model tolerance and intellectual freedom for my child, how can I expect her to demonstrate those in the real world?”

So what’s your opinion?  I’d love to hear what you think.  Should you raise your kids with your political values? Talk to me in the comments (by clicking the “comments” button at the end of this post).


Posted by on September 15, 2008 in Family, Jenna, Politics, Stream of consciousness


7 responses to “Politics and Kids

  1. Heather~Domestic Extraordinaire

    September 15, 2008 at 11:00 pm

    I expose my girls to the whole process. When they were younger I would take them to vote with me and explain who and why I was voting for certain persons or issues. My girls are both older and they are enjoying watching me get frustrated at the craziness that is leading up to this presidential election. They ask questions and I try to give them the best answer I can, or we research the answer together. Will I love them less if they don’t believe what I believe, if they don’t think the same issues matter that I do. No, of course not. Now I will be upset if they are close minded about their views, but for now that isn’t an issue.

    Great post!

  2. Christine

    September 15, 2008 at 11:03 pm

    I think politics are the same as religion, you can’t help but influence your children, but at the same time, if you truly believe in having an open mind, and teaching them an open mind, then they will see that and learn that as well. I try very hard to teach my boys to listen to all sides of an arguentm/debate, and figure out for themselves what they think. I’ve taught them about every religion, and try very hard not to be disparaging to any religion or political view. The reality of it is, that there is no right or wrong way, there is only what is right or wrong for you. Every person is different, and will see things differently, and will have a different path to tread. I feel our biggest job and challenge as parents is not only to teach our children about the different paths, but then to learn to accept the path they decide to take. The latter being the hardest part of all.

  3. anymommy

    September 16, 2008 at 12:32 am

    What a thought-provoking post. I really enjoyed reading it and the comments above. I struggle with this issue (I struggle in a similar way with how to teach my children about religion and how much of my way of thinking about God I want to impose on them). In the end, I come down to the idea that I want my kids to be critical thinkers. I want them to examine problems from all angles and be open to different perspectives because some day that will be the same thing as being open to different solutions. I hope that they will embrace my best open-minded qualities in these areas, but then go on to be better, more open, more critical, more able to digest various ideas and find the path that works for them. Big hopes. I want them to care about others and our earth and our country. I want them to recognize and despise injustice and still respect the rule of law and all that it has meant for this nation. And, I want to remember that most people with political views have these goals, we just differ on the best way to get there. At least, I like to hope so!

    Um, yeah, novel. Like I said, great post!

  4. Auntie Amy

    September 16, 2008 at 11:56 am

    The trick is to teach VALUES. The politcal values should then develop from their personal point of view. I think it is important to discuss & even debate politics with kids so they understand what the real issues are & not just the hype. They need to learn why politics is important. Choosing who to vote for should, however, be private. Kids should not feel pushed or brain washed into any point of view.

  5. Heather of the EO

    September 16, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    I agree with much of what was said above. Teaching values first. These values are often quite political of course. I think it’s important to be careful about strong or negative opinions. A nine year old (not mine) said something when he saw a political sign that shocked me. He said “he’s a liar, everything he says is lies and he’s evil.” hmmmm…. I said, “why do you think that?” He said, “I don’t know.” hmmmm…. maybe mom and dad have voiced some strong opinions? That doesn’t sit right with me. Kids really do need to develop their own ways of thinking and learn to trust their gut feelings on political issues, rather than having ideas forced on them.

  6. psychmamma

    September 16, 2008 at 10:37 pm

    Thanks for the wonderful comments everyone. I love reading all these perspectives, opinions and examples from real life. Keep them coming!

  7. insane mama

    September 17, 2008 at 1:55 pm

    I think it is so sad when I see and hear kids expresing political views . They are obviously just repeating what they have heard over and over from their parents. I think parents need to discuss rather than influence.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: