Donald Trump’s latest lewd, (accidental?), hot-mike comments, his objectification of women, and his repeated out-of-control behaviors, his bullying have left us all scratching our heads mainly in disgust. How does anyone process this man? And what is a parent to do when her kids are exposed to him and his antics? The answer? Rejoice! Donald Trump exemplifies many of the lessons for our kids we have been hammering home for years. He is the gift that keeps on giving!
In my parenting groups, I always urge the members to take advantage of real life stories that exemplify the lessons you are trying to teach. Words from parents are often heard by their kids as blah blah blah. But real stories drive the message home.
If your child has been exposed to any Trump trash, if your child has his own iphone (aka free range internet access), or easy access to one, or if your child is a tween or older, the time is now to point out the lessons from Donald Trump.
- Sometimes adults behave badly, really badly. They make mistakes, use bad language, say mean things, and are disrespectful to others. That does not mean doing any of these things is okay. It means the adult has used poor judgement, has a problem, hasn’t learned better, or made a mistake. Don’t think for a minute that because the person is an adult, it is allowable or acceptable.
- What you post follows you…and so do your videos and the videos others take of you, as well as your tweets, Instagram posts, audio memos. (Here is your big chance to bring this lesson home, the same lesson you have been preaching since your child first went on the internet.) Nothing that you (or people around you) record or post ever goes away. What you put on social media or merely record is there forever, deleted or not. It can be uncovered. It follows you wherever you go, however old you are, regardless of who you become. And look what is happening to Trump. His campaign is imploding because of his own past behavior caught on video.
- What you do or say or share or post is a reflection of you. People you know and many you don’t will form their image and opinion of you based on what they know about you, your posts included. You are in charge of your brand, of how people see you. Believe it and take responsibility for it.
- Watch your behavior and your words. Never say out loud or write anything that you wouldn’t be happy for your parents or grandparents or teachers to hear. It can easily come back to bite you and haunt you.
- Restraint is the watchword. You may think it’s funny; you may think it’s clever; you may think it’s actually harmless; but use restraint. If you ever wonder if you should say or do something, the answer is No! Don’t go there! When someone tries to drag you down into the muck, remember Michelle Obama’s simple and profound words, “When they go low, we go high.”
- Guilt by association still makes you guilty. This is the Billy Bush effect. When it comes to bad behavior, you may not be the instigator; you may not even be a lead player. But if you are a supporting player, you are making a statement of collusion. Because Billy Bush encouraged Trump, played along, and did not discourage or try to put a stop to Trump’s gross antics, he has lost his job at the Today Show. He is guilty by association and support. He was collateral damage in this event, and he will forever be known as the guy who was in it with Trump. Bad choice, Billy.
- Always take responsibility for your missteps and do it sincerely. While Trump may think he apologized, his words were hollow, and he is not forgiven. When you make a bad choice, when you go down the wrong path, you need to own your mistakes and express regret from the bottom of your heart. It is your best shot at being able to move on.
- Misogyny and the objectification of women are entirely unacceptable. While you may live in a culture or environment which conditions boys/men to think it is okay to treat women as objects, calling it just “locker room talk,” or one that convinces women that abuse and harassment should be tolerated, this is not today’s world. It is unacceptable, and it reflects poorly on you.
Just as it is your job to teach your child media literacy, how to process what they are seeing and hearing via media, so is this an opportunity to teach your children how to interpret and learn from Donald Trump’s comments, actions, and behaviors. Seize the moment! I am quite sure that in the next few weeks your lesson syllabus will grow even longer.