Parents, Children, and Election Day Ideas

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Election Badge

It’s almost here! Election Day 2012 is on Tuesday November 6th, and the weeks leading up to it bring a goldmine of opportunities for parents to create stimulating dialogue with their children.Whether it is over the family dinner or during an otherwise monotonous car ride, the following ideas can help parents find out whom or what influences their child’s opinions, how school is or isn’t expanding their child’s knowledge base, and ways to influence a child’s principles or vision.  And who knows?  Parents and kids may bond a little too!

1. Utilize Election Day as an opportunity to ask kids what they know about “government”. Can they name the three branches (Executive, Legislative, and Judicial)? Do they know their two State Senators, or any of the Congressional Representatives? How might they respond if asked to debate the pro or con side of a current issue such as drilling for oil, or dealing with terrorists (otherwise known as big bullies)? These open ended questions can provide a good glimpse about what a child is or isn’t learning in school, and how a parent might applaud or supplement their knowledge base. Younger kids can be taught these concepts in very basic ways while older kids can be challenged with more thought provoking debates.

2. Consider inviting a child to imagine that they were an elected official and ask them what they would do to improve the country. Parents may hear comical answers such as “I’d ban all homework”, or thoughtful answers that give insight into their child’s knowledge and personal beliefs. Most parents enjoy hearing their children’s opinions and ideas. They’ll likely glean what kids are picking up from their sphere of influence, including academics, news stories, social media, peers, or even their peer’s parents.

3. Election Day celebrates our right to make choices. Ask your kids which candidate they would choose. Then ask them to give you two solid reasons for that choice.  Some kids will make their choice based on the preference of a parent or best friend? If this is the case, a parent might dig deep to evoke their child’s opinions and encourage them to be leaders of their own beliefs instead of followers of other’s beliefs. Parents might consider observing for this pattern of behavior in other parts of the child’s life. Whether kids elect a candidate, choose an extracurricular sport, or pick the perfect college, we ultimately want them to know how to research their choices, match them with personal beliefs, and make intelligent, informed decisions.

4. Consider taking your children to the poll with you. I did this with my son when he was 8 years old.  He was thrilled to be included in a grown up activity and this alone increased his attentiveness to election process. I was allowed to take him into the ballot box and even let him punch the holes in the card to choose our candidates. He was over the moon!

5. Elections, as we have observed this year, can get rather ugly with contemptuous ads, gross exaggerations, and insults. Ask your kids what they think about these strategies and the grown up bullies who action them? Do they think that they are justified in order to win? Why or why not? Ask your child what alternatives they would implement to run an ethical and moral campaign? When you hear all the good things they know they should do, pat yourself on the back. That is likely the result of your good parenting!

Please share your ideas on how to maximize teaching opportunities before our upcoming election.

These Questions Will Get Your Kids Talking!

Curious parents want to know! 

What’s really going on when my kids are at school?  What do they think of their friends, bullies, class clowns, teachers, lessons, lunch or recess?   More importantly, when I ask my kids about how their day went, how do I get them to say more than “fine” or “good?”

Here is a small sampling of questions to jumpstart meaningful dialogue between parent and child.  Pick one or pick them all.  Just don’t pick them all at once or you’ll raise your kids’ suspicions and make them steer clear of your “interrogation!”


  •  Who decides what to do at recess?  What makes it fun?  Who or what makes it stressful?
  •  Who did you eat lunch with today?  Do you eat with the same kids every day or do you mix it up?  Can anyone join you at lunchtime or do   they need (a ringleader’s) “permission?”
  •  What do you do to welcome the new kids at your school?  When are you a leader?  When are you a follower?  What makes you a good leader?
  •  Which of your friends would you nominate as “The Best School Citizen?”  What characteristics qualify them to earn this award?
  •  What characteristics do your friends appreciate about you?


  • Which kids get in trouble the most at school?  On the bus?  Who / what situation challenges you the most?  Why?
  • If you could teach these kids a thing or two about staying out of trouble what would you teach them? 
  • What do you think makes bullies act the way they do?  What makes you angry about bullies?  What makes you feel sorry for them?
  • What one thing do you regret saying or doing to another student?  What would you do differently next time?
  • Name three things would make school less stressful.



  • What teacher deserves a raise?  What makes their class fun?  What helps you to learn most effectively?
  • What class / teacher challenges you the most?  If you were the teacher in this class, what would you do differently?
  • Who makes the class laugh?  What makes this disruptive or fun for you?
  • Without actually doing your homework for you, what can I do to help you do your best?
  • Name three things that make you look forward to school.


Your children’s answers to these questions are insights as to how they make observations, formulate judgments, feel emotions, and make decisions.  Remember to keep your questions open ended by starting them with “who”, “what”, “where”, “how”, “when”,  “tell me more about…” or “describe….”  Though kids can still give you short answers, it will be harder for them!  Ask the questions in light-heartedly in a calm, relaxed setting and you’ll likely get some solid information.  Not only will you learn more about your child’s school life, hopefully you’ll learn new things about their personality and preferences.  Then, you can capitalize on opportunities to guide and teach them how to navigate the game of life. 

Please visit our comments section and let us know how these questions worked for you.  Feel free to add your ideas to the lists so we can learn from each other.

Susan Boyle, Bullying, Judgment, and Your Kids!

"Look!" "Lauren is wearing Ugg boots." "She thinks she's hot so let's teach her a lesson and just ignore her!" (Lauren got the boots as a gift from her grandmother. She was nervous about wearing them because she usually doesn’t wear designer brands.) "Josh's dad drives him to school when he lives only a few blocks away and could walk." "What a lazy loser!" (Josh’s peers don’t know that he has a fragile bone disease and that doctors have asked him to avoid tripping and falling on uneven sidewalks.)

“Those kids get straight A’s.” “They’re such bookworm nerds!” “No wonder they have no real friends.” (The straight A students are funny and personable if only some of their peers would give them a chance.)

We all pass judgment. Sometimes it can serve as a 6th sense that protects us from danger. Most of the time however, passing judgment is an unjust allegation. Kids in particular observe something and make up their minds about it before acquiring any facts. Their observation is a mere sliver of the big picture. Kids then go on to express this observation as an assumption using words that can be hurtful because they are not necessarily true. The words in turn can become nasty rumors and lead to schoolyard pranks that hurt, alienate, or otherwise harass the person being judged. Suddenly an innocent child is subject to teasing or full-fledged bullying. So what can we do to help?

Parents and teachers can choose from an array of ideas to help their kids to be fair and friendly instead of judgmental. My new favorite is the old classic video of Susan Boyle on Britain’s Got Talent. I know. You’ve already seen it, but would you please consider watching it again with your kids or students beside you? Pay close attention to the judges and the audience. Assess their facial expressions and ponder what they might have been thinking both before and after Ms. Boyle sings. Then ask the kids what they observed. Query them on how passing judgment can be unfair. Ask why one of the judges called the incident “the biggest wake-up call ever.”

To really connect with your kids, consider sharing your own experiences related to passing judgment or being the recipient of it. Then ask them to share theirs. You might just learn something new about their “secret” life at school, sports or other extracurricular activities. Lastly, solicit your children’s solutions. Gandhi said “Be the change that you want to see in the world.” How do your children think they can be that change?

It takes a village so let’s support one another. After you watch the video please come back and leave us a comment of the wisdom you and your children shared.

Could your Child be a Bully?

Angry, sad, and frustrated are the emotions that have disturbed me thrice in recent weeks.  The first experience came when I learned of 7th grade boys who harassed a girl on a Florida school bus.  The story might not have made the news had it not been for the girl’s father, who boarded the school bus to verbally confront the perpetrators.  He felt this was his only option after school administrators opted not to respond to his pleas for help.   I’m not condoning his vigilante type behavior but I honestly can’t blame him for wanting to protect his daughter when others refused to.  The girl, who has cerebral palsy, endured a group of bullies who placed an open condom on her head, smacked her on the back of her head, twisted her ear, and shouted rude comments at her. The second incident came as I heard the media report that two Georgia teens were arrested for beating up an autistic boy.  Again the incident occurred on a school bus and thankfully, the boys have been arrested.  Lastly, I saw a news clip of two teenage girls fighting on school grounds only to be encouraged by peers to “punch harder”.  Not one student stepped in to break up the violence. 

Where do mean children come from?  Could one be growing in my household?  How about yours?  Could your child be a bully?

Now I suspect most parents would never consider their own child as a mildly mean spirited or downright vicious bully.  After all, or intuitive focus is on our kid’s strengths and good character.  But as I heard about the disturbing stories outlined above, I asked myself “where were these kid’s parents?”  “Why weren’t they doing anything to stop the bullying?”  Then it hit me!  Perhaps they didn’t know.

I started to wonder about the parents of the teens currently under prosecution for bullying Phoebe Prince to the breaking point when she committing suicide.  Did these parents know their kids were bullies?  Now that their kids risk juvenile court for “criminal” activity, I bet these parents would give anything for a chance to go back in time and be better aware.  I for one never want to be in their shoes.  I want to take steps to make sure my child doesn’t come close to being a bully. 

When we think of bully, we usually think of the extreme type.  Sometimes, however children can be a mild version of a bully without even knowing it.  For example, name calling, spreading rumors, and hiding another child’s belongings are types of bullying.  Racial, religious, and cultural mocking even if done innocently are qualifiers as well.   A child, who does this anonymously, behind the security blanket of computer screens or phone text messages, might be guilty of cyber bullying.  And “guilty by association” bullying is easy to do by laughing along with a crowd that is poking fun at someone.  The list of minor or extreme offenses can go on and on. 

Parents who play the role of detective by asking open ended questions are able to find out more about their children’s level of involvement in potential bullying.   Here are some questions that help to get dialogue started. 

  • What happens on a typical school bus ride to school and from school?
  • Who are the kids that got in trouble on the bus or at school this week?  Why did they get in trouble?  What kind of association, if any, do you have with these kids? 
  • How can you avoid “guilty by association” bullying?
  • How do you feel when you see someone bullied?  This is an important question in which parents can assess the level of empathy in their child.  Most researchers believe that empathy can be cultivated.  For an excellent poem that can help to do this, refer to “How Parenting With Emotional Intelligence can Weaken Bullying”.
  • What do you do when bullying occurs?  Why?
  • What’s your definition of bullying?  Here, parents have an opportunity to educate their child on types of bullying that the child may not be aware of.
  • If you were a Superhero, what would you do to stop bullying?  How can you implement some of those ideas as just a “regular” kid?

Parents can also help to monitor their child’s behavior by conversing with other parents and being aware of social circles and trends.  Remember the saying “It takes a village”.  Lastly, I believe it is a parent’s responsibility to peruse the social media activity of their children.  It is an excellent way to assess thoughts, language, and behavior patterns of your child and those that he /she interacts with.

Though these questions or ideas may seem basic, they have the potential to save an innocent victim from emotional or physical trauma. They also have the potential to keep your child from partaking in hurtful behavior and the risk of getting into trouble.  Ultimately, constant vigilance from parents in the form of monitoring children, and creating dialogue help.

Reader comments are appreciated. 

How Parenting with Emotional Intelligence Can Weaken Bullying

Somewhere out there is Laura.  I don’t know anything about her except that she wrote this poignant poem titled “I Am”.  The poem has been used in anti bullying campaigns around the world, and today I’d like to share it with you. 


I am the person you bullied in school I am the one who didn't know how to be cool I am the person you alienated I am the person you ridiculed and hated

I am the person who sat on their own I am the person who walked home alone I am the person you scared every day I am the person who had nothing to say

I am the person with hurt in their eyes I am the person you never saw cry I am the person living alone with their fears I am the person destroyed by their peers

I am the person who drowned in your scorn I am the person who wished they hadn't been born I am the person whose name you don't know I am the person who just can't let go

I am the person destroyed for 'fun' I am the person, but not the only one I am the person who had feelings too ..and I am a person, JUST LIKE YOU!!!

This poem evokes immense empathy by the preponderance of those who read it.  The dictionary defines empathy as“understanding” or “a deep emotional understanding of another’s feelings or problems”.  Having researched the value of emotional and social intelligence (ESI) skills in our youth, I can tell you that development of empathy as a key competency renders positive results for personal satisfaction and healthy relationships.   Though some believe that empathy is innate, I’m with the majority and believe that empathy can, and should be, taught to children at the earliest cognitive opportunity.  I envision empathy as a tool for carving out a kinder world in which there is diminished bullying and a population of children that is happier to the core.  Reading this poem with your kids and creating dialogue of what it must be like to be a bullied person is one approach to create awareness and fruitful action, but we need more.

Please contribute to our comments section and share your positive ideas or rewarding personal stories on how we, as a community can increase empathy to decrease bullying of any kind.  Then, consider sharing the article with anyone and everyone you know who can make a difference at home and beyond.  Ask them to participate too.  It does take a village!