A well-known adage declares that polite conversation always steers family away from politics, religion, or sex. We say, if we’re not talking about these things in our family, then our kids are most certainly having the conversations elsewhere. Elsewhere should never be the primary source of facts, discussion, advice and grounding when we have the opportunity to talk about important matters at home.
This time, it’s politics, and it’s a subject that’s always timely. But never more than now. I don’t think I have ever seen a Presidential race this contentious. We don’t want you to necessarily think like us, but we do want you to think. And we want you to teach your children how important it is to replace bias, rumor, prejudice, and misinformation with a thoughtful look at what makes politics tick. The greatest enemy of freedom is a people unprepared to engage in intelligent debate and thoughtful decision-making. Don’t be that guy. Here are 10 things we all need to think about when it comes to engaging in and understanding politics.
1. Freedom relies on widespread participation in the political process.
Kids need to understand that it’s important to take part. Not voting and not thinking about politics is a decision to not value liberty.
2. The Constitution.
We need to teach our children the U.S. Constitution. They need to be familiar with the contents and understand how it was written and why it gets amended.
3. An open mind is not a political affiliation.A closed mind can repel wisdom irrespective of our politics.
Party affiliation does not determine receptivity to new ideas. Openness to growth and learning is more of a spiritual condition. A closed mind can repel wisdom irrespective of our politics.
4. Our political preference is not a religion.
Politics does not provide spiritual nurture nor does our leaning necessarily say anything about our standing with God. The writer of the Declaration of Independence acknowledged that The Creator endowed us with fundamental rights, not the government, and certainly not one political party.
5. Free speech should not have a higher value than courtesy.
It is important that our children understand the necessity of courtesy in political discourse. It is possible to disagree with respect, to be wrong with integrity, and to be right with humility. This is where parental modeling is of the essence.
6. It’s okay to get excited.
America was born out of passionate disagreements, has been sustained by heartfelt debate, and will remain strong because of—not in spite of—sometimes overly enthusiastic differences of opinion. While #5 is true, it’s also important that our kids realize it’s okay to be fervent in our views and to communicate our convictions with enthusiasm.
7. Children must learn to think for themselves.
Too many people have given up critical analysis in favor of simply parroting other people’s opinions as their own. This is not only lazy but dangerous. The greatest threat to democracy is a voting public—and families—who don’t think things through.
8. Listen to both sides.
Teach your kids to listen to both sides of a debate and to pay attention to people they think they will disagree with. We must learn how to cultivate multiple sources when gathering information.
9. The truth can handle good questions.
If children don’t understand, they should always ask. Good questions reveal truth… or the lie. Either way, good question asking is critical to a political process that works
10. People who disagree with us are not by definition un-American.
We all know people who believe everyone should walk in lockstep (both in politics and in religion). We must teach our children that there is always more to learn, that people who disagree with us aren’t always wrong, and that narrow-mindedness is the shortest path to political oppression.
Huddle up with your kids tonight and ask, “How do you decide what is right and wrong?”