It doesn’t matter which way you vote, the election of a president is so much more than just voting for one person. It presents a tremendous opportunity to teach a child something they do not teach in school – not as a subject, anyway. Oh, sure, we delved into the qualifications a person must have to run for president, and they now understand where and how to vote. But I want them to learn something deeper. Something they will always remember.
Here are five things I have tried to teach my children over the last few months, and especially during yesterday’s election. I hope it sticks.
Democracy is the best form of government, but it is completely dependent on the education of its people.
Democracy finds its roots over 2000 years ago. It is best associated with the Greek city of Athens and its famous philosopher, Plato, who held the position that only educated people who learned about their government and the issues of the day were capable of avoiding tyrany. I think children, especially, find democracy to be an easy to understand concept. They want their voices to be heard by the people in charge. They want their opinions to count, and their desires to be met. But it is important for us to teach them that education is the key to maintaining a healthy democracy. Because when you know the laws, then other people can’t make you do what they want you to do rather than what’s right, or good for everyone.
It’s not about the person, but rather the issues we value most.
We don’t vote for the best looking candidate. We don’t care what color his skin/hair/eyes are. What we look for in a president – or any leader, for that matter – is that which reflects the values we hold most dear. Those intangible issues that matter most, and the views that will affect how they govern and what they will support or reject. Every person is different and everyone values certain qualities or issues with different intensity. We have to figure out which person’s values best match our own, though we have to be careful because not everyone tells the truth. So we have to look at actions more than simply words.
There is no “us versus them.”
Being a Republican or Democrat doesn’t make you good or bad. We have family who vote both ways and we love them deeply all the same. I warned my children to be careful not to fall into the trap that stealthily plays out in social media – and even around dinner tables. We cannot see and treat people who have a different opinion or who value different things as the enemy. No one person is more important or more valuable than the other. Instead, we are better off to find ways to meet and find out if we really disagree. If so, we then have the opportunity to practice our “powers of persuasion,” encouraging others to see our point of view. If not, then it’s time to practice the art of compromise.
No one can tell you who to vote for. The choice is yours to make.
The morning I went to vote, I told my children that ultimately, they will have to make their own choice. When they are old enough, neither I nor my husband can tell them who to vote for. No one else has that right, either. They also learned that their vote is private and no one else’s business. They can share if they want to, but then they must be prepared to deal with the consequences.
It’s okay to disagree, but you must be respectful, kind, and level-headed.
Language is a powerful beast and it is up to us to master it. We also have to learn to control our tempers. Guess what? Not everyone in the world will, or has to agree with you. My son and daughter certainly can relate to that! Is it easier for siblings to understand this? Maybe. But either way, a person must learn self-control, not throw fits when they don’t get their way, and trust that everything happens for a reason. I want them to learn that it is okay for others to have a difference of opinion and that solutions only come about when both parties strive to find the best path for everyone involved.
Monica Olivera Hazelton, NBC Latino contributor and the founder and publisher of MommyMaestra.com, a site for Latino families that homeschool, as well as families with children in a traditional school setting who want to take a more active role in their children’s education. She is the 2011 winner of the “Best Latina Education Blogger” award by LATISM.