What's Wrong with Teaching Our Kids to Be Involved?

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This morning, I took my two sons to a rally in support of our school district’s emergency operating levy renewal and addition. Thankfully it was one of those beautiful fall days -- blue skies with a bit of chill in the air -- but I would have taken them even if the weather wasn’t perfect. It was important to me for them to attend, to hold a sign, to be involved. I got chastised for taking them though.

During the last Presidential election, I witnessed people saying nasty things (online and off) to parents who took their children to rallies, dressed them in support of their candidate or had them wear a pin in favor of their side of the election. “You’re forcing your opinion on them. That’s not fair.” Similarly, I was told that my children shouldn’t have to attend a rally and hold a sign, and that in doing so, I was exploiting them with the purpose of tugging on voter’s heart-strings as they drove by.

I shrugged off the naysayers. Here’s why.

I want my children to understand that change doesn’t magically take place. To foster change, someone has to be involved, and honestly, more than one someone has to be involved. If people don’t know about a cause, they can’t understand it and most certainly won’t vote for it. Someday these two boys are going to come up with their own passions and things that they believe in or want to fight for. I want them to know that to achieve those things, they have to be actively involved.

I want my children to know that activism is always better than slacktivism and that donating time is just as important as donating money. On the way to the rally this morning, I explained that we most certainly had one hour of our time to donate to the school today in support of the levy. My youngest son, not quite four, asked, “What does donate time mean?” I tried to compare it to the way that we donate new toys to kids every holiday season so that they can have a new toy on Christmas morning. I explained that the time we were taking out of our day was a way of donating, a way of showing that we support the cause and are invested in the outcome. I went on to explain that money and things are great to donate, but if you don’t have those things to give, the donation of your time and effort is always greatly appreciated by those involved. I don’t think my youngest son got it, but my older son did.

I want my children to know that I support their education. Education is important to me (and to their dad, who was working today; he beeped in the fire truck as he drove by). The economy in our area has taken a hard hit and our governor has taken away a lot of money from our school district (as well as others throughout our state). It angers me that even though our school district had been doing the right things -- they’re currently existing on the money that they saved from years past -- we’re being punished. I want my children to know that I will fight for them to receive a quality education, that I will work hard to make sure they receive what they need. I want them to know that learning is important, and I care about they way that they learn.

I want them to have pride in our schools, in our city. I’m not from the city in which I live... nor the state. I could easily take a disinterested role in what is going on with local financial struggles and state politics. I could see the grass as greener in the area in which I grew up and whine about how I miss my hometown. The truth is that my children are going to grow up here. I want them to know that I share their school pride. My kindergartener is already so proud of his school, his Principal, his teacher, his teams. He thinks the city in which we live is simply awesome. I want him to have the same love for where he is growing up as I do for where I grew up. As such, I’ll show up for events like these, attend football games, help them learn the history of our city and teach them that investing in your children is a sure way to invest in your city.

And if all of those things mean that I am “forcing my own opinions on my children,” well, so be it. I honestly don’t feel that those are bad values to pass on to my sons. Promoting a love of education, a pride in one’s city and the knowledge that change starts within us? Yes please.

My parents raised me with similar values. I may fall on a different end of the political spectrum for them, but they always encouraged me to believe what I wanted as long as I could back it up. I feel the same about my sons. No matter who they vote for in 12 and 14 years (and for the decades after that), I want to know that their dad and I were the ones who taught them that voting is important, that being involved is what helps make change and that donating your time is a great way to give back to a cause.

Besides, if this little almost six-year-old holding a sign up along side the road this morning tugged at the heart-strings of an uninformed voter and pushed them over the edge to vote for the levy?

Love :)

I'll take it! A vote is a vote!

What are your thoughts? Should parents avoid involving their children in political rallies and causes until they’re old enough to make decisions? Do you involve your children in your passions or take them to political rallies? How do you teach your kids the importance of being informed and involved?

 


Family Section Editor Jenna Hatfield (@FireMom) blogs at Stop, Drop and Blog and The Chronicles of Munchkin Land. She is a writer, editor and photographer.

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