The GEM Debate:
Should You Tell Your Children Who You Are Voting For?
Ahhh… Election day. Well, I’m going to keep this classy and stick to the topic at hand which is this: Do you discuss your decisions about politics with your children?
There’s a blog on The Huffington Post site detailing why a mother won’t tell her 7-year-old child how she is going to vote. She cites the issues – the war, the economy, abortion – as being too hot button for her to discuss with her daughter. She doesn’t want her daughter to “parrot” her beliefs. I say she is wrong, wrong, wrong.
First, let’s just say you don’t have to break everything down for your kid. If you read the many comments left for the blogger you will see that there are people who can find kid-friendly ways to mention the war, “You know how I don’t like you fighting? Well, these men have to decide about fighting and that’s important to me”; the economy, “Daddy isn’t working right now and the person who wins the election will have a huge hand to play in helping him get a job”; abortion, “One day you are going to have to make some very grown up choices about your body.” Yes, these may lead to more questions, but doesn’t every conversation with a youngster? They take what they can and leave the rest which is why talking to them is more of a series of conversations.
Secondly, kids are a lot less “parrot” than people would have you believe. My wonderfully observant child does do what I do to a fault, but trust me; she has her own pattern of thought. I don’t like my food hot, and warn her all the time about the temperature of her food. Joelle has decided she likes her food hotter than I would like her to. So no matter how “hot” I tell her something is, she makes the determination if it is “too hot” for her. I bet I could explain to her that some kid in her class should not be her friend because he believes in X, Y, and Z, and she and he would be such fast friends. Why? Because she knows A, B, and C about him. Yes, I could scold her, but as long as the kid isn’t hurting her I feel that she can make the determination on that. Which brings me to my third point.
How do you teach a child to become a free thinker? Is it by withholding your thought patterns? I don’t think I have to get into heated debates with my two year old, but I definitely want her to know that there is a thought process. It’s the same thing as making her put on her hat because it is cold outside or letting her go without a jacket because she isn’t going to understand how cold it is until she feels it once or twice. Of course, then I learn the lesson because she didn’t think it was one bit cold. Her 1, 2, 3′s will one day be quadratic equations, but I have to start with the basics now. We want free thinkers, but we have to teach them to be that way. Not telling them what we think stifles that process. Showing them how we came to that thought? Oh, yeah! And then at the end of the conversation, at the beginning, or even somewhere in the middle can come the caveat that you don’t expect them to always think like you. ”Your life will be different and you may think differently. I will always listen to your opinions and respect your right to have and voice them, but there will be times when I will disagree.” Kids are pretty smart. You repeat that line with vigor a few times and they will understand.
So what about you? Have you discussed with your kids what your election day plans are? Will you do so now? I’m a new parent so maybe I’ve got this all wrong. Let me know what you think!
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Ella Rucker is a mother of a two-year-old girl and the guardian of two boys. She is currently working on dispelling the myth that being a “stay at home mom” has anything to do with staying at home. Ella moved from Ohio to New York City twelve years ago where she is currently assisting the head GEM and proving that sticking your neck out just might help you win the race. She loves to read about the “mental laws” and seeing them work in her life, but her greatest joy is laughing madly and wildly with her daughter who amazes her everyday. You can also find her writing for mochamanual.com or by following her tweets @ellalaverne.