Kids, Politics and Rebellion

By Rebeldad Brian Reid

Thank goodness spring has arrived early. The ground is now nice and thawed, which has made it much easier for just about everyone in my neighborhood to stick a sign in their front yard advertising their candidate of choice next Tuesday.

It's not just the signage that has sprung up. We have buttons and stickers all over the place, including plastered all over the local kids. Which raises the question: Does pounding children with a specific political message do any good?

We've certainly spent a great deal of time around the dinner table lately talking politics with our oldest daughter, who is very interested in the fact that there's a woman in the hunt. And while she can't rattle off progressive talking points on the war or offer an opinion on health coverage mandates, she is familiar with the finer points of Title IX.

We're not trying to indoctrinate her with a rigid way of looking at the world, but we do have high hopes that she'll retain her interest in gender equality well into adulthood. Still, my wife is living proof that exposure to a given political stance as a kid guarantees nothing. She still has scrapbook picture of her parents with Ronald Reagan, and she remembers Newt Gingrich being hailed in her house as a conservative savior way before the 1994 "Republication Revolution." She had a red-state childhood, all the way.

Naturally, she's now a committed liberal who looks back at her conservative roots with a mixture of amusement and amazement. And she wonders if our little one will someday rebel in the same way, experimenting with Republicanism when she finally gets the ballot in 2020.

How are you guys handling next Tuesday's election in your household (and the much more divisive vote coming in November)? Are you making any effort to sway the voters of tomorrow? And do you have any fear your dinner-table chats will backfire on you when your kids hit that rebellious voting age?

Brian Reid writes about parenting and work-family balance. You can read his blog at

By Brian Reid |  February 7, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Conflicts
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"And do you have any fear your dinner-table chats will backfire on you when your kids hit that rebellious voting age?"

The late Mr. Chitty and I were of different political persuasions. It hasturned out a wash with the kids. The kids' friends tend to have the most influence on political views.

Posted by: chittybangbang | February 7, 2008 8:01 AM

Brian, just the opposite. We're trying to teach our kids to think for themselves, to make up their own minds, and to be able to articulately defend a candidate they support or a position they take. We don't believe "indoctrinating" them in any political stance is productive, although both DW and I are willing to explain our choices and viewpoints.

It seems to have worked - oldest DD has cast her first ballot, absentee, for next Tuesday's primary. We had a nice discussion with her before she left for college about who she was supporting and why, and she's very well informed.

It's the way I was raised. Dad was a Democrat; Mom a Republican; and we had a number of interesting discussions as I was growing up. (To be honest, the party registrations were somewhat nominal; they both always voted for the candidate they thought best, not the party.)

DW and I are the same - I'm a Democrat; she's a Republican; but we both vote for the candidate we prefer not the party so we many times wind up voting for the same person.

Watching our teenagers - and their friends - grow and become aware of politics has convinced me more than ever that trying to "indoctrinate" kids in any position is just counterproductive.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | February 7, 2008 8:29 AM

Off topic

Yesterday's cat stories were GREAT!!!


Posted by: chittybangbang | February 7, 2008 8:36 AM

My Dad was an elected official in our hometown when I was in Junior High. He was quite opinionated about campaigns and how to judge who was best. Someone who'd served on a city council or a school board before moving to higher office always got his vote.

I was pretty much born into a particular party. My husband was also born into a political party -- but the other one!

We have one kid who's quite interested and is out for Obama this weekend. The other, who is 19, isn't even registered, although he may after listening to his brother talk.

Everyone's opinion deserves respect. I think you can instill interest by making sure you talk about politics at home, and by subscribing to a newspaper. The paper, strewn all over the kitchen table is often the kick-off for political discussions in our house.

Posted by: RedBird27 | February 7, 2008 9:26 AM

We don't talk politicians at home. We may talk about polarization, about spin, and the politics of hatred, but not about I was scarred during my teen years of the McGovern/Nixon hate fest, which never really ended imho. Politicians are all the same: they'll say what they have to say to be elected and it means nothing.

Off topic: meesh, congrats to your boys in red. Maryland put it away. MN, Duke was simply too tough. Duke is getting better each and every game. UNC needs to be more consistent.

Posted by: dotted_1 | February 7, 2008 9:42 AM

dotted, the 1972 election was the single event that drove home for me the importance of politics and what it meant for my family.

I still remember by parents' arguments about that one.

Dad was always politically aware because he felt it was important that he had a say in who got to order him to go die. Mom was also politically aware because she thought it was important to have a say in who got to turn her into a widow with three kids!

There were four men in Dad's lifetime that he truly despised: Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Robert McNamara and William Westmoreland. All of them because he believed they didn't care about the troops; they'd order him and his comrades to go die for purely political purposes and not lose a moment's sleep.

Having served in Military Intelligence, he was also positive from the first moment that Nixon was guilty as h-e-double-hockey-sticks in the Watergate mess.

But both Dad and Mom believed that McGovern's economic policies were so whacko that he'd destroy the country in no time flat; us kids would have no future.

Mom and Dad argued all summer about that election. Mom's view was that the only choice was "hold your nose and vote Nixon" because the liar/crook was less bad than the nutcase. Dad chose not to vote; he couldn't bring himself to support either one or even a third-party candidate.

I learned a lot that summer. :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | February 7, 2008 9:56 AM

"It's the way I was raised. Dad was a Democrat; Mom a Republican; and we had a number of interesting discussions as I was growing up."

Posted by: ArmyBrat | February 7, 2008 08:29 AM

My mother was a Democrat. My father, who had been Democratic before we were born but got disgusted at the corruption at the local level of Franklin Roosevelt '03's New Deal, was a Republican. So was my mother's sister Anna, who lived upstairs from us) were Republicans, so we kids got to hear both sides at home.

"(To be honest, the party registrations were somewhat nominal; they both always voted for the candidate they thought best, not the party.)"

There was a congressman named Paul Fino who was running for re-election. After seeing an ad for him on a bus, I told my father, "Fino says he's for the people." He replied, "Son, Fino is for Fino." But my parents were not party robots any more than Army Brat's were. When the choice was between the intellectual with the hole in his shoe, and the five-star general who liberated Western Europe from the Germans, my Democratic mother did not hesitate to vote for Ike in 1952 and again in 1956.

Posted by: MattInAberdeen | February 7, 2008 10:18 AM

We are not citizens and don't vote but follow politics pretty closely. We have not discussed politics with our daughter but found it quite interesting that she was rooting for Hillary because of her gender. Not only that she mentioned that all the girls in her 4th grader class was doing the same. The fact that in 4th grade they know the names of all the front-runners in either party is itself quite promising for the future

Posted by: sarbari_roy | February 7, 2008 10:23 AM

ArmyBrat - I remember that 1972 election too well myself. I remember the often almost-violent discussions between teachers at school (my parents were both for Nixon because McGovern was for their words, not mine). The pure violence of that election turned me off of political discussions. I see the same kind of violence parading as political discussion going on today both here, in Iraq, etc. etc.

Posted by: dotted_1 | February 7, 2008 10:23 AM

My parents are both committed democrats, though they have been known to vote for republicans and 3rd party candidates when the candidate was right. They never indoctrinated me, per se, but I always knew which issues mattered to them and why. I remember being in elementary school making charts (for myself) of what the candidates stood for and trying to decide where my opinion was on each issue.

Did anyone read the NYT op-ed yesterday about lowering the voting age? I wouldn't be opposed to lowering it to 16. Once you can work and drive, I think you should be a part of the process.

Posted by: MaryL | February 7, 2008 11:11 AM


dotted, you are a gracious fan. MN, congrats!

On topic, politics were big in my household. My mom and dad are both crazy hippie liberals and always have been. My brother and I have followed in their footsteps. But whereas my brother is fully on the left-wing bandwagon, I'm much more moderate, which I think makes my parents mad.

My husband is registered as independent, but we mostly agree on fiscally conservative and socially liberal ideas.

His parents and sister are republicans. So we avoid talking politics when we're visiting.

Posted by: Meesh | February 7, 2008 11:35 AM

My dad likes to joke he didn't know there were two parties until JFK ran in '60. ;-) The president I most recall being lambasted in our house was Carter who lead my dad to be a Reagan Democrat, then frankly just a Republican. I honestly didn't know my mom's politics until my parents divorced ... more because of the dynamics of her relationship I guess. I live in the district that happily voted for Democratic presidential candidates for years on end while reelecting Connie Morella. A mixed bag of influences to say the least.

Posted by: tntkate | February 7, 2008 11:37 AM

tntkate: Carter caused my father to bail on the Democratic party. :-)

He was a Democrat because when he was growing up in Louisiana the elections were held as Democratic primaries. You want to vote, you have to be a Democrat.

Dad voted for Carter in '76 because he was so mad at Ford for pardoning Nixon. But by '80 Louisiana had introduced the "jungle primary" where everybody ran in the same primary regardless of party affiliation, and you could be a Republican or independent and actually vote. Dad was so mad at Carter that he became an independent.

Re: Morella - sigh, I just love gerrymandering! Glendenning and his cronies redistricted her right out of Congress.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | February 7, 2008 11:51 AM

"Kids, Politics and Rebellion"

By Brian Reid | February 7, 2008; 7:00 AM ET

Brian, is the title of today's essay patterned after the slogan that the Republicans used to characterize the Democrats in the 1884 election as "the party of Rum, Romanism and Rebellion"? That slogan antagonized the Irish-American vote and lost the election to Democrat Grover Cleveland.

Posted by: MattInAberdeen | February 7, 2008 12:00 PM

where is everyone? wapo server down or what?

Posted by: dotted_1 | February 7, 2008 2:15 PM

Grover Cleveland really clears a room.

Posted by: tomtildrum | February 7, 2008 2:27 PM

I'd love to be following the politics, but I can't go half-way. If I pay attention at all, I want it to be enough so that I can make an educated decision and do something. But with home buying, a new job, and DH still learning the ropes at home plus the normal work of toddler twins, I would be an ignorant voter right now or I would have to fail to meet my other responsibilities. I'm also not in agreement with either major party, which makes it much more difficult and time consuming to make a decision.

So I made a promise to myself: I can ignore the primaries and let them go, as long as I make an informed decision when I vote for President. I've been getting a lot of flack at work, but I just really can't take it right now.

Posted by: ethele | February 7, 2008 2:32 PM

evidently tomildrum is correct there....

Hey ArmyBrat - the high school I wrote about back in 72 is near you. Wilde Lake High. No interior rooms, all open space, ditto jeans, and phase (rather than grade) learning.

Posted by: dotted_1 | February 7, 2008 2:48 PM

"Grover Cleveland really clears a room."

So does no surprises......

Posted by: chittybangbang | February 7, 2008 2:53 PM

I wouldn't consider developing different political reviews rebellion - I would consider it growth. I don't think my job is to teach my son to think just like me, it's to teach him to think critically, be thoughtful and respectful. If he thinks through an issue or idea and comes to a different conclusion than I do, that's fine, that's probably good. Of course, this is easy for me to say now since he's only three :) But in seriousness, I think I would be troubled only if he was disrespectful in his disagreements, becoming someone who refuses to accept that reasonable people can disagree reasonably - that would be very hard.

Posted by: LizaBean | February 7, 2008 3:00 PM

hey chitty - How about this line...

I knew Grover and you aren't Grover!

Posted by: dotted_1 | February 7, 2008 3:06 PM

"ArmyBrat - I remember that 1972 election too well myself. I remember the often almost-violent discussions between teachers at school (my parents were both for Nixon because McGovern was for their words, not mine)."

Posted by: dotted_1 | February 7, 2008 10:23 AM

"Hippies" is a mild word for what the Scoop Jackson and Hubert Horatio Humphrey wing of the Democratic Party said about McGovern & Co. after they lost the 1972 election by 520 electoral votes to 17. The Jackson/Humphrey crowd griped that McGovern had turned their party into the party of "acid, amnesty and abortion." I guess that was the 1972 version of "Rum, Romanism and Rebellion."

What does that make the GOP? The party of Lincoln, Goldwater and Miller?

Posted by: MattInAberdeen | February 7, 2008 3:36 PM

If Abraham Lincoln were alive today, he'd be a Democrat!

Posted by: mehitabel | February 7, 2008 3:40 PM

Matt - the slogan needs to be alliterative (not illiterate)

Reagan, Religion and Roe

Posted by: dotted_1 | February 7, 2008 3:42 PM

Nice touch, Dotted!

Posted by: mehitabel | February 7, 2008 3:45 PM


someone else do the 'd' for democrat and 'i' for independent, okay?

Posted by: dotted_1 | February 7, 2008 3:48 PM

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