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Politicians Behaving Badly: Talking to Kids About the Election

by on Apr.13, 2016, under Adolescents, Behavior, Character traits, Communication, Elementary School Children, Learning, Parenting, Public Behavior

Kids of all ages are getting a whiff of election politics at its worst. It’s unavoidable.

I’ll bet you think I am going to say, “Shelter them! Turn off the radio, TV, computer.” Not this time. This 2016 presidential election (which seems interminable) is an opportunity. It is filled with important lessons for our children, elementary school age on up.

Remember, children learn a great deal by making mistakes and by seeing the mistakes of others. It is what I call “ambient learning.” So, instead of protecting them from what is going on, it’s time to expose them and to make it a lesson.

I am reminded of when Congressman Joe Wilson called President Obama a liar during a speech to the joint Congress. While others may not have, I thought it was horrifying and saw it as an opportunity to teach kids about the respect that goes along with being President of our country.

How about the on-court antics of former tennis start John McEnroe who used to swear at the referee and throw his racquet? That was an opportunity to teach our kids about public behavior, sports behavior, respect, and what is not okay to say and do in various situations. Lessons aplenty.

Viewing the election campaign activities with your child, including the theatrics of some, is a classroom in itself.  Doing so gives you the opportunity to teach the election process. It also provides the platform to examine the behaviors, okay and not okay, of certain politicians.

Your children need to learn about the election process of our country.  Even the youngest ones understand that someone is the boss.  They can also learn how one becomes the leader and learn about the voting process.

Learning about voting opens the door for discussing why people choose to vote for one person and not another. You can talk with your child about your choice, sharing what you like and don’t like about the candidate. Ask your child what she might like in a leader. Doing so will help her to develop an opinion.

Seeing bad behavior displayed by some of the candidates will give you the opportunity to discuss different types of bad behavior.  Your child needs to learn that it isn’t only children who do unacceptable things. And it’s not only at home and school that it happens.  Even adults do mean things, use name calling, and even lie. Ask your child what he thinks about what the candidate said. And let him know that bad behavior is no more okay for an adult than it is for a child.  If your child asks why the grown-up gets to behave badly, it is an opportunity to underscore your beliefs. Your answer:  They don’t and they shouldn’t.

A candidate’s bad behavior may result in your not wanting to vote for him or her.  This is a lesson in being responsible for your actions and words, about being aware of how you are viewed by others. Each of us is our own billboard. What we do and say is a reflection of who we are and affects what others think of us. What a meaningful lesson that is, one that will have tremendous application as your child grows up.

It may be a good time to quote candidate John Kasich when he said, “I’m not going to take the low road to the highest office in the land.” Whether you’re a supporter or not, his words ring true.

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