The Politics of Parenting: Kids Have a Voice Too

After two weeks of political conventions, I have found myself talking to my daughter a lot about why voting is so important.  “So your voice can be heard” was one of the many reasons that I gave her.

As I explained it to her, I started to think about what it really means to have a voice.  And I realized that having your voice heard goes well beyond casting a ballot.  Your voice is the most powerful communication tool that you have.  It communicates your strength, your weakness, your knowledge, your ignorance, your passion, your convictions and your fears.

How do you use your voice?  More importantly, what cues are you giving your child about how to use their voice?  There are 2 things that you can do to help them realize the power of being heard.

Let your child’s voice be heard at home

I was raised during a time when children were meant to be seen and not heard.  We were not really allowed to expressed emotions like anger and frustration—at least not toward our parents!  I think that’s when I began to suppress emotions and internalize feelings.   As a result, I still struggle with outwardly expressing my emotions at times.

That said, Journey is allowed to express whatever emotion she is feeling—as long as it done in a respectful manner.  And believe me, she does!  When she’s upset with me, I know it.  She tells me, we discuss it—and sometimes I even find notes about it.  (I admit, the first note crushed me, but I have since developed thicker skin.)  Because we have established such an open line of communication already, I am hopeful that it will continue to get stronger–especially when we hit the teenage years when it will matter even more.  If I’m lucky, she won’t feel the need to hide her teen angst and all that comes with it.  And I am certain she will carry these communication skills into her personal and professional relationships for years to come.

Let your child’s voice be heard in public

All too often, I see children of speaking age that are just plain rude.  They don’t say hello when spoken to, they don’t say excuse me, please or thank you.   And their parents don’t seem to require it.   And what do you think happens when these rude children grow up?  It’s so important that you require (yes require) your children to speak when spoken to and to say please and thank you.   Not only does it show respect for others, it also builds their confidence.

As soon as Journey could speak, she began placing her order in restaurants.  When we go to the doctor and they turn to me to ask what the problem is, she jumps right in and tells them.   They are always taken aback by her ability to articulate her thoughts and feelings so clearly.  Journey already understands that if she wants something, she has to ask for it; if she wants to be heard, she has to speak up; and that no matter how young or old she is, her voice deserves to be heard.

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