It’s almost here! Election Day 2012 is on Tuesday November 6th, and the weeks leading up to it bring a goldmine of opportunities for parents to create stimulating dialogue with their children.Whether it is over the family dinner or during an otherwise monotonous car ride, the following ideas can help parents find out whom or what influences their child’s opinions, how school is or isn’t expanding their child’s knowledge base, and ways to influence a child’s principles or vision. And who knows? Parents and kids may bond a little too!
1. Utilize Election Day as an opportunity to ask kids what they know about “government”. Can they name the three branches (Executive, Legislative, and Judicial)? Do they know their two State Senators, or any of the Congressional Representatives? How might they respond if asked to debate the pro or con side of a current issue such as drilling for oil, or dealing with terrorists (otherwise known as big bullies)? These open ended questions can provide a good glimpse about what a child is or isn’t learning in school, and how a parent might applaud or supplement their knowledge base. Younger kids can be taught these concepts in very basic ways while older kids can be challenged with more thought provoking debates.
2. Consider inviting a child to imagine that they were an elected official and ask them what they would do to improve the country. Parents may hear comical answers such as “I’d ban all homework”, or thoughtful answers that give insight into their child’s knowledge and personal beliefs. Most parents enjoy hearing their children’s opinions and ideas. They’ll likely glean what kids are picking up from their sphere of influence, including academics, news stories, social media, peers, or even their peer’s parents.
3. Election Day celebrates our right to make choices. Ask your kids which candidate they would choose. Then ask them to give you two solid reasons for that choice. Some kids will make their choice based on the preference of a parent or best friend? If this is the case, a parent might dig deep to evoke their child’s opinions and encourage them to be leaders of their own beliefs instead of followers of other’s beliefs. Parents might consider observing for this pattern of behavior in other parts of the child’s life. Whether kids elect a candidate, choose an extracurricular sport, or pick the perfect college, we ultimately want them to know how to research their choices, match them with personal beliefs, and make intelligent, informed decisions.
4. Consider taking your children to the poll with you. I did this with my son when he was 8 years old. He was thrilled to be included in a grown up activity and this alone increased his attentiveness to election process. I was allowed to take him into the ballot box and even let him punch the holes in the card to choose our candidates. He was over the moon!
5. Elections, as we have observed this year, can get rather ugly with contemptuous ads, gross exaggerations, and insults. Ask your kids what they think about these strategies and the grown up bullies who action them? Do they think that they are justified in order to win? Why or why not? Ask your child what alternatives they would implement to run an ethical and moral campaign? When you hear all the good things they know they should do, pat yourself on the back. That is likely the result of your good parenting!
Please share your ideas on how to maximize teaching opportunities before our upcoming election.