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Should parents argue politics in front of kids?

  • Chicago Tribune
  • Published Wednesday, June 27, 2012, at 8:28 p.m.

You and your spouse have serious ideological differences: Should you argue in front of the kids or swear off politics?

Parents with opposing viewpoints have a golden opportunity to shape their children into accommodating, thoughtful beings, say Debbie Devine and Michelle Tingler, co-founders of O-Mama.com, a website designed to get parents talking constructively about hot-button issues.

“Politics can get ugly,” says Devine. “As parents, we have to take a higher stand and choose our words a little more carefully and hone our arguments in a way that is logical and less emotional.

“If we can model that behavior to our kids,” she says, “then when they are thinking through these issues and talking to their friends about them maybe they won’t immediately go to the ugly and they’ll go instead to the constructive.”

Rational thought and respectful debate are not skills they’re likely to learn from politicians, after all. Or TV pundits. Or bloggers — or just about any one else discussing politics.

“Our media tend to reward the nasty and the ugly and the bad behavior,” says Tingler. “As parents, we’re constantly trying to reward the positive behavior, ignore the tantrums and correct the bad behavior. But on TV the loudest and angriest and most abrasive gets the most attention.”

You and your spouse can be the antidote.

“Kids are used to having disagreements with their friends,” says Devine. “They’re used to having to find ways to resolve things and sometimes agree to disagree. If they see you do that at home, that will make sense to them.”

And remind them that there’s more than one way to look at an issue.

“It’s great for them to know we live in a country where people don’t agree all the time,” Devine says, “but we can all still live together and have common goals and values, even though we don’t agree all the time how to get there.”

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