“Mommy, is Obama a tax collector?”
That is the question my 5-year-old asked me last week. He and his little sister were playing Chutes and Ladders, minding their own business, while I was making dinner and something made him think of this question. Maybe it was his Sunday school lesson from the previous week? My first reaction was to blurt out, "No, son, he's far worse than a tax collector!" But, I don't think that would have been the best parenting choice. In the span of about ten seconds my mind processed several different things before I answered him:
1) Do I want my child to like Barack Obama? That's a tough one, but I have to honestly say, no. I don't agree with the majority of his policies or his views and, in fact, I consider many of them to be outright unconstitutional and immoral. So, no, I don't want my children to "like" him.
2) Do I want my child to respect the position of Barack Obama? Yes. I want my children to respect the authority of the President of the United States. I also want them to understand that the President is put in position by the people and is supposed to work for the people of this country.
3) Do I want my children to know how I feel about Barack Obama? Sure. My husband and I are pretty vocal around the house about our political views, so I don't have a problem with them knowing that I disagree with Obama and his policies.
So, with all of that considered in the span of about ten seconds, I answered my sweet boy, "Well, not exactly. He is our president...but...he sure does like collecting our taxes!"
My husband and I have been tasked with an amazing responsibility. While we joke about how our political views rub off on them (both our boys, ages 5 and 6, when they see a picture of Obama, will automatically say, "Look! It's the guy who takes our money!"), we consider it our moral responsibility to guide them and teach them to be responsible people with a deep respect for their God, their country, and their neighbor.
We try to show them that hard work is rewarded and that laziness is not. There is many-a-lesson about grace in our home (Max once said to his dad as he was about to get a spanking, "Can I have grace again this time?" Nope. I actually think what he wanted was mercy, but we hadn't gotten to that lesson yet). They have to earn and save their money. They respect human life. They love guns and can't wait to hunt with dad.
These lessons all point to one of our most important goals as parents: We are trying to raise little conservatives. Here are a few things we’ve utilized in trying raise little conservatives.
Raising Fiscal Conservatives
This is a new one in our home, because the boys are just starting to recognize the value of money (our youngest, Gracie, is still not quite there yet). Max is very concerned about having a twenty-dollar-bill. Sheesh. I don't think I ever had more than a few quarters at his age. We've started a system in our house for the boys to earn money. They have a chart and for each item (caring for the dog, making their bed, not teasing, etc) they either get a smiley or they get nothing. The first week we implemented it, I decided to give a quarter for each smiley. Bad idea. By the end of the week, I owed Max $11 and Charlie $10.25. I've since lowered their wage to ten cents per smiley.
Here's something straight from Conservative 101 they're learning...They only get the reward when they do the work. Max's work doesn't count for Charlie and vice-versa. We don't "give" any of one boy's earnings to the other boy who doesn't do as well that week. Amazing concept.
We are also able to teach them about giving with this little exercise. Max is usually the one earning the most money. It's a personality thing. There have been times when we've given him the choice to give to his brother. Sometimes he chooses to give, sometimes he doesn't – but we don't make him.
We want our children to be cheerful givers, and I'd like to share a little story about this to illustrate what I mean. We are heavily involved in a non-profit called, Online for Life. Basically, we save babies using the Internet. Awesome stuff. Well, my sweet boys are just about as passionate about it as we are, and the other day, one of them walked up to me with a coin in his hand and said, "Mommy, I'd like to give this money to help save the babies." Priceless...it's the type of moment that makes my heart soar as a mommy.
Raising Social Conservatives
Children who are raised to be social conservatives are raised to value life, marriage and family and to love their neighbors as themselves. This can be challenging in today's world. Our children are being constantly battered with political correctness, worldly values, and the postmodern notion that truth is relative. How do we, as parents, combat this?
The first principle we have learned is that we must teach our kids that we (mommy and daddy) are their authority. We have the last word over teachers, friends, friend's parents, television, other family members and so on. Already in their short lives, I have had to correct things they've been told by very well-meaning people multiple times because it went against our family's values and beliefs. I cringe at the thought of some of the things they will be fed as they enter into their school years but I am comforted knowing that my kids respect our authority and trust us.
Raising social conservatives also begins on a spiritual level. It isn't just about teaching them that abortion is wrong; it's about teaching them that each life has intrinsic value. Abortion has been a big one in our household due mostly to our involvement with Online for Life. I would encourage all parents to take up a cause and get their children involved with it. Last July 4th, my kids decided to put up a lemonade stand. My 5 year old spread both his hands and said, "Mom, I'm going to sell this many. These (holding up one hand) I'll give to save babies. These (holding up the other) will be for me."
All my children have begun to commit scripture to heart, and one of the first that they learn is Matthew 22:39, "Love your neighbor as yourself." Most people have heard that verse, but many do not really know what it means. We have tried to instill in our children what it truly means. It's in the little things, like letting their guests pick the game, helping someone up who has fallen on the soccer field, sharing their favorite toys, and praying for one another.
What about feminism? Fun one. We teach our kids that even though we are all equal, girls and boys are different. This goes for my boys especially.
They are to treat girls differently, more gently both in their actions and speech. No wrestling with Gracie or Mommy. As they get older, I will tell them that when they go on dates they had better be gentlemen, opening doors, being polite, no matter what the rest of the world does. My husband, Tim, makes sure our children regard me not only as their mother, but also as his wife, and he demands for them to respect me as such (it works in theory...in real life they are 3, 5, and 6...the important thing is that the seeds are planted!). These seeds will grow as they do and years from now as they are bombarded with political agendas for marriage and feminism and whatever else is thrown at them, the roots will be deep and strong to withstand attacks.
Raising Little Patriots
"Ook ("look" without the "l"), Mommy! Ook! It's America!" This is one of my favorite phrases that Gracie yells (literally) every time she sees an American flag. My kids love America. Two of their favorite songs are "Party in the U.S.A."(they call it the "U.S.A. song") by Miley Cyrus and "Coming to America" by Neil Diamond. I'm sure you are all laughing right now, but the fact is that there are plenty of catchy tunes out there for little kids to bob their heads to, but my kids have chosen to love these two songs because they are about America.
On a recent flight, I sat beside a man who serves in the Navy. Before I even learned that he was in our military, the subject of patriotism came up. "We teach our children that they live in the greatest country on earth and that they are very blessed to do so," is what I told him. It brought a smile to his face and a comment about how others would be wise to do the same. After learning of his career, I understood just how deeply he must have echoed our love of country and our desire to instill the same love in our children.
The level of patriotism our children possess, like any other value, depends upon the level of patriotism we, as parents, possess. When we recognize that our freedoms came at a cost, we are thankful. And, as true patriots, want to pass it on; we want others to enjoy the same freedoms that we, as Americans, do. Not because we are better individually, but because we know that democracy and freedom are both things that allow people to flourish as individuals.
A few things we do with our kids to pass our patriotism on:
· We teach them to be thankful for our military. We point out men and women in uniform and tell our children that they are protecting us and we should be thankful and respectful of them.
· We teach them that America is a wonderful place to live and that we are blessed to be Americans.
· We make it fun--whether it be a Miley Cyrus song or an American flag t-shirt.
· We pray for our country and its leaders.
Raising Empowered Individuals
"Empowered Individuals." What a beautiful, conservative principle! As conservatives, one of our most fundamental beliefs is that government exists in order to ensure our freedom and empower each of us to solve our own problems. A few weeks ago my husband and I witnessed first-hand how this type of principle affects people and their decisions--even a kindergartner.
Our oldest son has his first book fair going on at school. He's really excited to buy some new books, and even came home with a list of all the books that he'd like to buy from the book fair. Upon looking it over with him, we found that his "wish list" totaled about $85 in books. We told him that we would give him $20 to take with him to school to buy some of the books. The fact that he couldn't buy all of the books on his list seemed to really upset him, so we decided to let him bring some money out of his piggy bank if he'd like to buy additional books.
While agreeable to this option, all of a sudden he became a lot more concerned about which books he would pick, and some of the books seemed to lose their appeal. When he was spending mom and dad's money, he was not concerned about the price, just that he got every book on his list. But when he had to spend his own money, the list of books that he absolutely needed shrunk – dramatically.
You see, conservative principles are pretty basic. It's easy to spend money liberally when it's someone else's money. But, when you give someone responsibility over their own money, when you empower them to make their own decisions, they will be a lot more conservative and a lot more concerned with what happens to that money. Even in kindergarten.
We have a moral responsibility to instill our values and beliefs into our children. We aren't just their caretakers, Make no mistake, our task is God-given and we will be held accountable, not for the choices they make, but for our role in how they came to make them.