A few weeks ago, Marama Davidson of the Green Party posted the following on Facebook:
Got told that me trying to raise empathetic, justice driven kids, who have a sense of care for their planet and their community, and who understand power imbalance and privilege, and the importance of having a voice and fighting oppression – is holding them hostage to political ideology in the same way that people who make their kids stand in public with ‘God hates faggots’ signs is.
Help. This is possibly an issue that seriously needs addressing once and for all. Help me write. This is basic stuff I know but I’m going to admit to some vulnerability and say I’m a little wound up over this which is restricting oxygen to my brain. Please grant me your collective critique on what we do and why. Thank you.
I think it’s an important question and it comes up a lot in the sort of social justice circles I used to be engaged in before I had a baby and found myself completely without spare time…
A few thoughts:
1) People are more important than ideas and values are more important than ideology. A good person should never be defined as a person who believes a certain set of things. A good person is a person who treats others with kindness and respect, even when they disagree with their standpoint.
2) Humility is important. None of us are perfect, and we all have room to improve, and we are enriched by opportunities to have our ideas critiqued – because we might come to a fuller understanding.
3) Tell the truth and trust your kids to draw their own conclusions. Many of the most powerful political lessons my parents ended up instilling in me were semi-inadvertent. Don’t try and make the world seem fairer and better than it is. Children are born with a strong sense of fairness and with caring and generous little hearts. When they see injustice, they will want to do something about it. Help them hold onto that reaction as they grow up.
4) Let your children teach you. Each new generation has fresh insights. Maybe if you are struggling to convince your kid that you’re right, you need to listen to what they’re saying and consider the possibility that you’re wrong. If you let your children challenge you, it teaches them that it’s ok to challenge authority – that the person in charge doesn’t always know best. This is a good lesson to learn.
5) Affirm the idea that everyone should be able to make their own decisions about their lives. This means making space for children to exercise autonomy commensurate with their age and stage.
These are principles of parenting that everyone could adopt. Also, they’re progressive, liberal principles. I think they could be sort of a check-list of how to make sure that you’re not “holding them hostage to political ideology” even while you’re conveying a message both directly and indirectly that you favour a particular view on some issues.