News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

A teachable moment, not to be ignored

What do we say to our kids in the wake of the events of January 6, 2021? I ask this question knowing many of us feel what we witnessed was unbelievable, incomprehensible, and inexcusable.

No matter our political affiliation, there are lessons to be learned by us adults and our kids. This is a teachable moment of which I implore every parent, with children old enough to understand what happened, to take advantage.

What are these lessons?

• Preparedness. Without more information, none of us know why the Capitol Police appeared so unready for the onslaught of people. As in all situations, planning ahead is paramount. This is why we teach our kids to pay attention to the weather, why we outline what to do in case of a fire, and what to do if they get lost. One of my daughters was indeed “misplaced” for many hours. Her instinct and training told her to stay where she was, a maneuver that aided authorities and others to eventually find her.

• The importance of thinking about what’s happening so good judgment can help in deciding how to behave. Whatever we think motivated President Trump, I think most of us can agree that poor judgment in his choice of words was part of what eventually happened.

• The importance of following rules. There is a reason there were barricades set up around the Capitol, just like there are rules for visitors coming into our public schools. There are reasons families have rules for their households and why we ask our children to follow them. As kids grow, they are entitled to know the reasons behind those rules. Nevertheless, if the reasons make sense and it’s important to have a rule (or a law), it is important for it to be observed.

• What constitutes free speech? We all value our right to be able to say what is on our mind, however if what we say causes harm to others or our country it isn’t protected under the First Amendment. This applies to obscenities, slander and to yelling that there is fire in a building when no fire exists. Helping our kids understand what this means is explicit to the maturity we want them to develop.

• The importance of telling the truth and relying on facts in what is espoused as truth. This, I believe, is a lesson all parents want their children to internalize.

• Respect. All our children have to do to see many examples of outrageous disrespect displayed is to watch coverage of what took place at the Capitol. I encourage parents to point these out to their kids, talk about what was happening and converse about what that kind of behavior means in our everyday lives. Much can be learned about how not to behave from these examples. Even more important is talking about opposite kinds of behavior and how it’s important to be respectful to everyone, no matter our age.

• How easy it is to follow the “mob” even when it goes against our best judgment. As we hear of more and more indictments being issued to people who may or may not have been casual bystanders, we wonder how many are regretting their own actions on that day.

• Violence or bullying is not the way to accomplish what you want. Pointing out that the joint session of Congress continued after order was restored is a beautiful example of how neither of these approaches accomplishes anything positive.

• Being accountable, taking responsibility, and accepting consequences. Here is probably the most glaring lesson to be taught and learned from January 6. Wherever the responsibility lies for the events that happened and who should be held accountable, consequences will happen. In asking my son, who lives in Germany, about the reactions of the people there, he responded that “the standing of the U.S., in the eyes of Europeans, has plummeted to a very low level and it will take years for its position as a world leader to be restored.” A very sad commentary.

I thoroughly believe the more we parents guide our kids to become upstanding, civic-minded citizens, the sooner that restoration can take place. A motto I often share is that “the future of our children depends on the parenting of today.” Today I’m thinking an even more profound statement would be that “the future of our country depends on the parenting of today.”


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