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Politics and Kids

Posted by Patience on September 26, 2008 at 7:00 AM in Patience
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What a sticky subject right? or maybe not at all. Last Saturday my neighbor called with a last minute invitation to go to an Obama rally close by. It was a no brainer for me, convincing the kids was another story.

Me: "Remember the man I told you about that might be the next leader of our country? There is a rally for him going on right NOW? Do you guys want to go? It's like were part of history here!"

Josiah: "Obama?! Is he going to be there?"

Jack: "Nah, I don't want to go. I'll just stay here."

Me: "I don't think he is going to be there but it should be very exciting. Come on!"

We eventually convinced Jack to go but only if we drove instead of walking. Lucy was devastated we weren't walking and everyone was grouchy by the time we got in the car 15 minutes later. I was hoping it was still a good idea especially when the questions started to flow on the way.

"Who is the leader now?"
"Oh, that guy started the war right? Is the new guy gonna stop it?"
"Why did we do that anyway?"

I was completely bipartisan giving both ends of the argument right? Not so much. I totally filled their heads with my political ideals and thoughts. I kind of felt guilty after. I was almost as bad as the smear commercial campaigns on television. It started a new little debate in my head.

Should we use politics as an opportunity to pass on our values?
Is it an opportunity to educate about the system and help our kids explore their own thoughts and ideas?
maybe a little of both?

I'm sure the answer is different for everyone but after the moment I wished I had asked my kids what they thought before I shared my views. I decided if a do-over is in my future there are a few questions that might stir up some conversation.

If you were the President, what would you do?
What would be important to you (and for all the people)?
What would you change?
What if kids ruled the world, what would it look like?

The rally ended up being a huge hit. There were bubbles, face painting, coloring, boat hats, healthy snacks and music. I was in heaven with all the change energy in air, the kids seemed mildly amused. I'm not sure I started any budding political activism with my crew but I was glad we went.

So I ask you Supersisters, what do you think? How do you handle politics at your house?
What part does it play if any at all? Does the media force you address it or are you blissfully unaware? What do you think kids should know?


Jess writes...

I don't think there's anything wrong with passing along our beliefs, nor do I think we can really avoid it. The trick is to let our kids know when we're sharing a fact, and when we're sharing our beliefs/opinions/interpretations of facts, and how we discuss/treat people who don't share our beliefs. We use lots of "I believe" statements in our house and share what things we observe, how different people perceive them, and how my husband and I perceive them. We invite our 5 y/o (the 3 y/o and 10 m/o don't join in yet) to let us know what he believes and what observations lead him to believe those things.

Teaching our kids to gather evidence and make informed decisions is important to me and will serve them well in all aspects of life! Politics/elections are also something I hope my children will learn about and think about, and discussing these things together seems natural.

Dale McGowan's book Parenting Beyond Belief addresses handing down your family's values while encouraging critical thinking skills (i.e., sans indoctrination). The book was written for nonreligious parents but contains excellent advice on many topics for all parents. His second book, Raising Freethinkers, is coming out soon and looks like a promising resource for parents who want to teach their kids to make thoughtful, well-informed choices.

Sky writes...

My husband is a believe in who you want, go vote, then that's it.

Me...not so much. I like to get involved, speak my mind, be heard! Today at lunch I mentioned that some friends and I were going to respectfully protest an event the first weekend in Oct. I mentioned how our daughter would go with me. He said something to the effect of "doing something productive". Like we aren't. I really got on to him about never saying that in front of our only daughter. I want her to know that anything she feels important enough to speak up about is worthwhile.

Sandy writes...

I grew up in a household where you were expected to know what was going on in the world. I raised my children the same way. It's very important to know the history of the labor movement and how things got into the mess they are today. All my children vote and are very responsible adults. The public school systems have failed kids in the social studies and history areas. I feel a parent must prepare their kids to be knowledgeable about the world around us and other cultures. Visiting museums and travel is wonderful for them and their own interpersonal developement. They may complain at first but they will remember what a responsible parent you were.

Lauren writes...

I teach second grade. At our daily class meeting time, one of my students stood up and announced:"Tell all your parents NOT to vote for_____________ because he is gonna raise the taxes and then I can't afford to go to this school anymore!" As a teacher and mother I impressed upon the children that voting is a very personal choice and that both men wanted to do have this job to help their country be the best it can be. At this stage kids are so black and white...WHO wins and who LOSES. We needto remind them it is about who we believe will do the best job. (and no- I did not tell them who I am voting for!)

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