Voting Day: How to Teach Kids About Democracy

Do the Kids Know What a Democracy Is?

When I asked nannies if we should share our own political beliefs with the children left in our care I was expecting everyone to answer, “No,” because we obviously want to shield kids from nasty campaign ads and mean-spirited comments from presidential candidates attacking one another.

But then, other nannies started chiming-in on the Be the Best Nanny Newsletter Facebook page and changed my opinion. For example, Kellye Couillard said, “Kids should care about politics, and as educators we should make learning about it fun. We read books, do activities, and talk about the different beliefs. I also stress to them it’s important to respect every belief.”

Thanks to Kellye, I had an, “Ah Ha” moment. It’s true, in order to respect other religions and cultures we teach kids about the religions and cultures, not ignore them. Hate and anger have nothing to do with our explanation of politics or government to children.

Knowledge of how to engage in public life is one of the most important rights and responsibilities American’s have. Therefore we must teach kids to do the same.

Another reason to teach children a simple explanation of government is that the majority of Americans still don’t vote! It is very important that we teach kids the importance of the democratic process, rather than participating in widespread apathy.

There is no room for discussing any hate or anger towards any political candidate or political party in our teaching their kids about government. Lucky for us there’s plenty to teach kids about voting that doesn’t include bashing political candidates or political parties. This is simply a child-proof lesson on government.

If you support a different Presidential candidate than your employer’s it may be a blessing in disguise. You can show your charges the true nature of a Democracy. Respectfully disagreeing is not only allowed but celebrated in a Democracy.

What is Democracy?
First of all, America is a Democracy. Democracy means the rule of the people (in Greek). There is no king or tyrant in charge. In a Democracy each individual person has a vote about what to do. Whatever the most people vote for wins. Each vote counts equally. Anybody can propose a new law.

A common feature of Democracy is competitive elections. Competitive elections in a Democracy are important because they require freedom of speech and freedom of the press. You can’t guarantee a given election will go the way you like but at least you have the right to vote for whomever you wish. No one can force you to support any political persuasion. You cannot be forced to tell anyone who you will vote for and there is no threat of being punished or arrested for when voting in America.

In a Democracy citizens are also allowed the freedom of religion. In a Democracy we are assured good governance (focus on public interest and absence of corruption). There is also a separation of powers between the institutions of the state such as the government, parliament, and courts of law.

In America, we have a peaceful change of leaders. There is no need for the military to use force when new Mayors, Governors, Congressman, Senators, Presidents, or any public official switch hands. The formerly elected official may attend the inauguration of the newly elected official as a sign of a peaceful, Democratic election.

Most importantly, a Democracy isn’t something that happens to you, but because of you. Kids need to understand that it’s important to take part. Not voting and not thinking about politics is a choice not to value our freedoms and liberty in our Democracy.

Thanks Kellye for inspiring me to think about looking at discussing politics with children as an important lesson for all American citizens. Our discussions about politics should be enthusiastic, positive, and informative, not at all like the campaign ads we are exposed to in the media.

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