Not a Soapbox, I Promise


June 11, 2012 by Melissa

I’ve been trying to figure out how to discuss politics or any issues with a variety of viewpoints in my house. Like almost every American, there are a lot of issues my husband and I are passionate about but I don’t want our girls to think that ours is the only opinion. I want them to be comfortable discussing and debating issues without it turning into a grudge match of name calling or each person trying to win the argument. I want them to know and to remember that every person has a story-a place they grew up in, a family that surrounded them (in good ways or bad), schools they went to, churches they attended, numerous experiences that have helped shape who they are and what they think about their world. And those views may be deep and meaningful. I want to teach the girls to be respectful of that.

Like a lot of people, when discussing hot-button topics in this house, we may sound angry or sarcastic (a passive aggressive form of anger that I’m really good at). Do I want Lucy or Alice to echo that in the world? It may make others feel insecure, upset, or, worse, angry. I want them to be better than that. I’ve decided recently not to talk politics to people with very rare exception. There are a few people I still feel I can discuss the issues with as there has always been a mutual level of respect given, regardless of views. Surprisingly, a lot of those people in my life are friends that I’ve had since high school or college. It’s possible that they know me well enough not to let my opinion interfere with their view of me. It happens all too often that if you make a new friend and then find out they have different views than you that it starts to color your view of them in other matters, or vice versa. That sucks and I have to be on guard against it all the time. I don’t think I’m alone in that matter. After all, I think there are a few things that we all want-we want to provide for ourselves and our kids, we want to be and feel safe, we want the world to treat us fairly, and we want to be heard, if the need arises.

It’s a tough challenge for myself and my husband. This is what the world feels like right now-divided, angry, hopeless, uncompromising. What must our children think of us? Compromise is the basis of any household, especially one with children, and our leaders and pundits don’t want to or can’t do it. So I’m formulating ways to let my children know why others may have other ideas about the world and that it’s their job to remember that and honor it. Isn’t it? How do you handle this in your house?

3 thoughts on “Not a Soapbox, I Promise

  1. I am not a mommy, but your post caught my attention. I, too, love talking politics with folks – I just don’t like to argue. But, I want to hear their side of their story. I think the media is making America bitter and divided. I recently started blogging, because I felt I only talked politics with people from my side. And, that is boring – all you get is, “yeah, yeah.” So, I started my blog with a very conservative friend from my childhood – where we have a basic friend foundation – our differences shouldn’t get in the way as adults. 🙂 I hope you find a friend that can help balance differences with what you are feeling so it can be a healthy discussion in front of your girls.

  2. The foremost principle I try to instill in my children is that we are all children of God, who loves all of us, and as such, there is NEVER an excuse to hurt or belittle another person. My kids are older, so it’s been interesting to go through the different stages. We are a very religious family, and most of our close friends share our religion. So when the kids go to school they are often confused that other kids’ families do things differently. This is a BIG deal in kindergarten. So the first lesson they learn is that there are a lot of different people and different ways to do things, and we can be good friends with people who are different from us. We talk a lot about the WHY we do things the way we do them or believe what we do so that the kids can develop their own understanding of our beliefs and not just do things because we tell them to. As the kids get older, they realize that they are in a very small minority, and sometimes that’s not an easy place to be. Again, we spend a lot of time on the WHYs of our beliefs. As for politics, I’m thinking this year will be an interesting one, since my oldest will be in 8th grade and the twins in 4th. They are old enough to understand more difficult topics, so I’m sure we will have a lot of discussions. We emphasize being respectful to their friends who feel differently than they do. I’ve noticed that there don’t seem to be a lot of hurt feelings, at least at the elementary school age, if a friend roots for the “other” Presidential candidate. It seemed like sports teams the last election. It had the exact same quality as their debates about whether certain basketball players or teams sucked or rocked. Their best friend could be passionate about a “sucky” basketball team or presidential candidate, but that had no impact on the friendship. I wonder if my 8th grader’s experience will be a little trickier this year.
    As for myself, I enjoy talking about religion with people (talking, not arguing). I like to learn about what other people believe and why, and I’m comfortable discussing what I believe (again, I enjoy sharing beliefs, not convincing or arguing. There is absolutely no point to arguing about religion). Politics I’m just about the opposite. I don’t really care to discuss politics. It’s almost impossible to discuss politics without arguing, and I don’t think arguing serves any purpose except to get each side more firmly entrenched in what they believed before. And both sides of the political world are full of flaws, inconsistencies and wrong decisions. I’m not passionate about politics–it’s usually choosing the lesser of two evils, in my opinion.

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