Fail to the Chief: How to Model Appropriate Political Behavior for your Children

October 13, 2016
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No matter what color your blood runs, you likely have an opinion about this election. Here’s my opinion: we are setting a terrible example for our kids.

 

Maybe I’m just becoming more cognoscente of it as I go through more election cycles, but it has felt to me that each campaign has been increasingly more polarizing and divisive. I am at the point where I am ready to vote in a candidate for a full eight years and skip every other period of hostile soundbites, mean-spirited remarks, and hate ads. We’ve only had three single-term presidents since World War II and maybe an eight-year presidency will help both candidates and voters take the election more seriously.

 

This election in particular feels downright nasty. We are seeing candidates display a shocking lack of control over their emotions, lashing out in anger with knee-jerk responses, and saying whatever they think without regard for anyone else. Even at an early age, most children distinguish between reacting and responding, and know they have the power to choose which route to take. Seeing adults demonstrate this severe lack of control throws all that conditioning right out the window.

 

Politics - Creative Commons ImageOur reaction to the candidates is not constructive either. How many times have you heard, “If XXX wins, I’m moving to Canada?” Maybe you’ve even joked about it yourself. To our kids, in jest or not, that simply reinforces the “us vs them” mentality. That one side is right and the other side is wrong (and bad). Instead, we should model that opinions are important but the goal is to come to the table and solve problems together, not abandon ship even if you do think it may be sinking. If we can practice empathy and reason, our kids will learn to respect and embrace differing opinions, and discover how to work together—something our candidates don’t seem capable of.

 

Three steps to model better political behavior:

 

  • Talk about the elections with your children. Explain why elections matter, why voting is important, and why people might be making such a big deal about this event. Tell your child who you are voting for and why, without demeaning the opposing candidate.
  • Listen to your children. Kids don’t always adopt their parents’ political views. Listen to their opinions and hear their reasoning, even if you don’t agree. If your child feels his or her opinion is heard, he or she is more likely to be engaged in thoughtful and considered civic decision-making throughout life.
  • Involve your child. Older kids should be invited to watch the debates with you. This way you can discuss when the candidates are not acting like representative of this country as opposed to your children hearing about it in a slanted way second-hand. Younger children will enjoy coming to the voting booth with you to see democracy in action.

 

Cricket Media Mama is so fed up with this election, she’s ready to move to Canada no matter who wins. Wait. Cricket Media Mama is so fed up with this election, she’s ready to move to Tahiti no matter who wins. Yes. That. Much better.   

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