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).