Generally, we want to teach our children by positive example: Do what I do. Or, Do what adults around you are doing.
With what’s been going on lately in our government, we have a different sort of opportunity. We can teach our children what not to do. We can also teach them to think critically about the world as it is, and the world they want to inhabit. At the moment, pessimism about politics is (understandably) high. We’ve watched the government shut down because its members were unable to compromise, because ideology trumped pragmatism, because politics was more important than the lives of Americans. Yep, there’s reason to want to tune out.
But parents have a special responsibility not to do that. The reason is, if our children see us turn away in disgust, it sends them the message that we should be resigned in our fate. It teaches them that if disgusting things are going on, we abdicate the need to be concerned citizens. That’s a dangerous message.
As I mentioned, there’s an opportunity here. For children who are old enough to read the newspaper, who are learning in school about how government works (or at least, is supposed to work), parents can engage them in a critical discussion about what’s really going on in the world. They can start to process the difference between theoretical concepts and practical reality.
And in this case, kids can start to learn about compromise and negotiation, how it breaks down when two sides fail to use empathy or practical consideration. They can learn what not to do.
We’re trying to teach our children not just about the world as it exists, but about the world as it can be. When our kids see that government isn’t operating as it should, it’s a chance for them to think about what should be different. They can consider the micro and macro level.
Because all of us shape our immediate world through our actions, and as citizens, we act on the larger world. Raising kids who care about what happens, and who are empowered to right wrongs, is an important aspect of parenting.
When things are as screwy as they are right now, let’s take it as an opportunity and a challenge. Let’s think about how to change the future through the generation we’re raising.
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Last reviewed: 21 Oct 2013