How To Keep Your Young Children Clear of Political Rhetoric?
Back in the 70's when I was young, I was staying a week with my grandparents in West Palm Beach Florida, and I remembered how nice it was there, all be it a little boring due to to the fact we had no video games and other children to play with at the time. We did have however a pool to swim in, a canal to fish in, and oh yes the liberty of staying up late and watching TV. So when taking advantage of our late night watching, our selections for good entertainment was limited, however we always found a good harbor and the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Though a lot of the jokes were over my head it was still enjoyable to see the big stars and band, and of coarse to hear Ed McMahon do his classic line "HERE'S JOHNNY"! I always watched eagerly to find something I could appreciate and for what I could find I did. Then however I learned a maturing lesson of politics, one that would stay we me to this day. One night they started talking about our beloved President Carter, we were from Georgia at the time and he was a local hero from our home state and we were all proud of him, on both sides. That enjoyment would not last long though, because shortly after mentioning him, Jay Leno who was filling in at the time went on a long skit of making fun of our President Carter. I thought after the first two jokes he would take it back or say just something like just kidding, but then it got worse! I am sure that I was not more than 10 years old and to hear people openly make fun of our president was ghastly to me, (and no, I did not know what ghastly meant back then), and as a young child who grew up highly respecting the position of the president it did not settle well at all, and I remember not watching the rest and going to bed with a kind of bad feeling that I didn't understand at the time..
I loved Jimmy Carter and even told my mother to vote for him, though I don't think she did...
Now that I am a grown up myself (cough-cough) and I hear comments coming from my 1st grader... my 5th grader.. and my 8th grader, during an election year and I can't help but to ask, where do they get his stuff? I know if you are on either political side, and you child is part of the majority, "as mine were", you might laugh and kid around with them in agreement when you hear about other children talking at school and taking jabs at candidates, undoubtedly what has been indirectly (I hope) taught at home ...But I truly believe the respect for the office no matter who wins or who is in office should be built in solid with respect, and until they understand and respect the position they don't have any business saying anything negative about a sitting president, or one who is going to be elected. I tell my 1st grader that it is a wonderful honor to become president and encourage her not to listen to anybody talking negative about either candidate, she is just to young for it. This line is not quite so easy for my cynical 5th grader who is a little mature for her grade having a September birthday and and having an older brother that she is always trying to keep up with. Though she will listen to "Daddy's Speech", about respecting all candidates, she has already been skewed by her friends and teachers of which way to go and the natural sarcasms that can be exploited on a potential presidential nominee or even a past president. To this I say, "Wrong" but I feel its out of our control and I teach my own children how to navigate through it while still staying on high ground. I know what happens in the class, a child is trying to make a political comment for attention, another child gets the joke, it may makes both of them laugh in agreement thus encouraging the behavior in class room and making a 2nd grader fell like Johnny Carson!
So how old is the right age to teach cynicism? I would say you should not do it at all. If you wish to have your child be aware of current events and the latest political news, I would focus on the candidate's position on the issues. Help them understand the reasoning in your support for a candidate and why you believe that way. Try to teach your children morals in a way of understanding and not anger that veers negatively on either side.
The problem, as I see it, we as a society have gotten so fast pace and our children are growing up so quick we don't take time to slow down and realize our subtle comments around our own home are picked up and actually duplicated at schools and other places. We might tell ourselves that we don't do to much of it, but when the TV is on at night and the political ads come on and the radio is on in the car our children are exposed to the negativity surrounded by the whole political arena. Children are sponges, they soak up information, we as parents need to be more aware of what we expose them to so that they will grow up making good decisions and to look at the world has a great wonderful place, not some angry, mean, hateful world. And it starts at home.
So I hope all of us can take the time to sit down with our children and explain the difference between what a person does in his position and how important that job really is. We are all living in one county and regardless of who is in charge we want the best for our President and our children!
So good luck to you, on either side of the aisle, may you have good luck with raising your children to be the best person they can truly be. I do hope that all our children will grow up with a great inherent respect for all offices of the government, whether it be a police officer, a school teacher, or even the President of the United States..!
Christopher Jude is a children's book writer and blogger, husband and father living in Atlanta, Georgia