Using the election as a time to teach..
by Flaura Koplin Winston, MD PhD
Yom Kippur has just passed and the importance of vows is ringing in our ears. At the same time, we are in the heart of a heated election season when promises and vows are uttered everywhere you turn. How can we use these opportunities to teach our children the importance of keeping promises?
Children see promises as serious verbal commitments that we must uphold at all costs. I can remember (in pre-HIV days), making “blood pacts” with my best friend. As adults, we smile condescendingly at this innocent view. But should we? As we grow older, we make and break many promises; we begin to accept that “promises are meant to be broken.” What lesson does this behavior teach our children? Words are a window into a person’s character. Broken promises breed lack of confidence. Many broken promises can lead to lack of trust and hope. Worse still, when children witness broken promises they, too, change. Their innate sense of obligation and commitment begins to erode.
The greatest lesson our children receive is by watching us. Within our own homes and in our relationships with our children, we can teach important lessons by taking promises seriously. This begins with careful consideration before making a promise. How often have we agreed to do something with our children knowing that we will not follow through? In the moment, it seemed like the expedient thing to do, but children take promises seriously, and they will not forget. Keeping promises is much harder than not making them in the first place. One important lesson to teach is to demonstrate taking time for discussion and careful consideration before making promises, especially to your children. They will see the seriousness with which you take your obligations. If you make the promise earnestly but cannot keep it as happens to all of us, admit it and explain why. Coming clean is an important lesson to teach by role modeling. But the most powerful lesson is to make promises to your children and keep them and expect the same from them. Here is where strong character is grown. They learn interdependence: they can rely on you and experience how good it feels to be able to rely on another person.
from around Mississippi were greeted by
state officials, and the Mayor of Oxford, MS
as they held a "Mississippi Kids Convention"
alongside the Presidential debate between
Senators McCain and Obama hosted by the
University of Mississippi. (Photo: Every Child Matters Education Fund)|
Election promises provide another natural teaching opportunity. Campaigning has become synonymous with politicians making promises, many of which I assume they know they cannot keep. Sometimes they do this when cornered by someone wanting a verbal commitment on the side of an issue. Many more times, politicians make exaggerated promises to generate excitement, interest, a headline and ultimately, votes. Regardless of the reason, the candidates make promises that they cannot keep, and they should be held accountable. Otherwise, our youth, who have come out in record numbers for this campaign, will feel disillusioned.
During the election, when listening to election speeches, interviews and debates, point out the promises made by candidates. Point out the likely empty promises and why. When possible show your child that you vote for the candidate who is careful when making promises. Keep a scorecard at home with the promises. After the election, hold the candidates accountable. When they break their promises, with your child, let the candidates know that you are aware and keeping track of their action of their campaign promises through letters, emails, phone calls and petitions. For the sake of our children, we need to show our children that we take promises seriously and are doing our part to add integrity back to our government.
The Philadelphia Jewish Voice's In Their Own Words
column regularly features politicians and candidates. We hope to not only inform
our readers by giving candidates an opportunity to respond to policy questions of
interest to the Jewish community, but ultimately we hope to hold them accountable
by preserving their responses in our archives as testimony to the promise to our
community and the American people.
Here are just a few of their promises that might be of interest to children excerpted from lists kept by the
- "John McCain will fight for the ability of all students to have access to all schools of demonstrated excellence, including their own homes." --JohnMcCain.com
- "I will continue to keep the commitment that I have had for many, many years that I will do whatever is necessary to preserve the independence and freedom of the state of Israel, our staunchest ally in the Middle East. I will do that, without fail and without faltering and without changing." --5/2/08, Denver
Hold our elected officials to their campaign promises.
- "Obama will launch a Children's First Agenda that provides care, learning and support to families with children from birth up to 5 years old." —Obama's Blueprint for Change
- "I will bring to the White House an unshakable commitment to Israel's security."
To view previous editions of "Raising a Mensch", please click here.
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