These days, it's practically impossible to spend a single day not thinking about or discussing politics in any way. Even if you don’t watch the news or stay up-to-date via Twitter, a headline here or a breaking news post there is sure to find you. And while I think it's beneficial that we're all more politically involved, I have some rules for talking politics around my child that I hope everyone, regardless of their political affiliation, will follow.
I don’t hide my beliefs or my political inclinations from my 4-year-old. He has no real interest, of course, because what's going on politically doesn't involve toy cars, his true passion at the moment. But I know that, eventually and because I'm outspoken, he is going to start taking an interest in or become curious about politics. And when that day comes, I want him to be an objective thinker. I want him to understand the importance of using politics for the greater good. I want him to understand the privileges he has and how he can wield them, within the political sphere, to positively impact his community. I want him to, for lack of a better word, care.
I've taken my son to marches before, and I hope that over time he recognizes the importance of social justice activism as a result of the example I have set. But at the end of the day, I just want him to be active; to take part in political discussions and, though his words and actions, have a say in how his neighborhood, his school, his state, and his country are run.
But for now, and because, again, he's only 4, I need to keep things light. I don't want my son to end up overwhelmed, or grow to hate politics, or become so confused that he has trouble figuring things out for himself. So these are the rules for talking politics around my kid, which definitely include the following:
Don’t Be The One To Bring It Up
Honestly, my kid is really young. I don’t need anyone, no matter how well-meaning their intentions may be, to start political conversations with him just yet. This goes double if I’m not around.
Do Advocate For Positive Political Action
I don’t want anyone telling my son who his mommy should be voting for, or who he should vote for in the future. I am 100 percent fine with someone telling my kid that he should vote when he’s old enough, or that he can always make his opinions heard in other ways even when he’s not old enough to vote. But trying to dictate what that action looks like or who he ends up voting for? No way.
If you’re going to tell him about how he can write letters to his representatives, you’re right on track.
Do Not Advocate For Political Inaction
If you tell my kid that voting is useless, that protests accomplish nothing, that marches are a nuisance, and that his voice doesn’t matter, then you need to kindly GTFO. The last thing I need is another voice telling my child that he can’t make things happen. Because guess what? He can... and he will.
Don’t Act Like Your Position Is The Only Position
Recognize that different people have different political beliefs, and that there’s no one specific “true” way to navigate the political climate. Much like discussing religion with my child, you can say what you believe, but you can’t act like everyone who doesn't agree with you is automatically 100 percent wrong.
Don’t Bash Politicians Using Offensive Terms
Look, I am not a fan of President Donald Trump. I don't pretend to be, either. But I don’t personally find it funny to bash him for being overweight, or even for his hair loss. I bash him because he thinks it’s OK to kidnap immigrant children and hold them in cages. I bash him because he’s seeking to make America more dangerous for the trans community. I mean, there’s a litany of reasons to bash him; reasons that have nothing to do with how he looks. As grown-ass adults who are more than capable of discussing political ideologies respectfully, we don’t need to resort to body shaming, slut shaming, racism, ableism, or anything else like that — and especially not around my son.
Don't Discuss Slogans Without Talking About Platforms
Especially as the country nears another big election, there are going to be a slew of slogans and snippets and rumors about candidates, many of which will likely miss the mark. I’m not here for the mudslinging, and I certainly don’t want to hear that kind of talk around my kid.
Instead of resulting to bullying, why not talk about a politician’s platform and record? Please, bring up the things a candidate or elected official stand for, or don't bring them up at all.
Don't Root Your Political Ideology In Hate
Look, we can talk politics all day long. We can talk about how the current political climate, and those currently in power, are shaping our society: the rise in hate crimes, the overwhelming number of abortion bans, the political rhetoric that has reached near unbelievable lows.
But I will not tolerate any political conversation where you bring up abortion and slut shame the people who have them, or advocate for anti-abortion protestors to use violence to shut down clinics or harass providers. I will not tolerate any comments where an entire ethnic group is vilified. I won't stand by as someone blankets their hate in politics and calls it "civilized conversation" or a "debate."
You can chat politics, but you can’t chat bigotry around my kid. Period.