Donald Trump is a sticky name to bring up in a public space because it evokes strong feelings. Many dislike him and find his public statements racist and chauvinistic. Many think he would be a horrible leader of the Free World, and that our country is in danger with him as a political front runner.
Donald Trump: What Our Children Are Learning:
My daughter is eight years old. She likes Shopkins, Star Wars, and most recently mascara. She loves animals and wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up.
She knows just as much about being a veterinarian as she does politics, and Donald Trump.
She has no idea veterinarians go to school for nearly twelve years and must learn the anatomy of more than just cats and dogs. Similarly, she has no idea the Commander in Chief is the main decision maker for our country and has many important jobs, such as holding the nuclear launch codes. Hell, she not only has no clue what nuclear launch codes are, she has no idea what nuclear war is.
What I can tell you, though, is that she "hates Donald Trump."
Why? She doesn't know.
She dislikes him for reasons she doesn't understand. She dislikes Donald Trump because of what she has heard on the news, overheard through conversations my husband and I have had, and most recently, through the first episode of Fuller House.
"Momma! Did you know that on Fuller House, they said that 'Donald Trump' is a bad word? Also, he smells bad- like feet! Kimmy Gibler said so!"
While that's funny, and she's said some pretty hysterical things about Donald Trump's choice in make-up and hairstyle, she's learned hate.
Strong opinions about Trump stem from his polarizing views: from border control to race. Many have formed strong, even hateful, feelings towards him. Not to say that a strong reaction isn't warranted. Let's be honest, he elicits one, but the point is, we're sending the same message to our children that we object to coming from his mouth.
When we show our children we harbor such strong feelings towards someone, we're showing them that's okay. We are teaching our children hate- whether we realize it or not. Trump is arousing the same behavior in us as he demonstrates each time he takes the stage.
Our feelings towards this man are being absorbed by our children who are too young to understand. We are teaching them hate is okay because "it's politics and this stuff matters."
And, it does matter. It matters who leads our country and what their values are, but children mimic behaviors.
"This man is a complete idiot," people say. It may seem totally acceptable when it comes to Trump. We've all heard it and many of us have said it. On the other hand, what would you do if your child was speaking this way about a classmate?
It was a wake-up call for me when my child uttered those words: I hate Donald Trump. I've never heard her use the word "hate" towards another person prior to that moment. How could she hate this man? She doesn't know him, nor does she understand the reasons why people dislike him. She is mirroring what she is seeing around her.
That's our fault - my husband's and my fault, for airing our views in the company of little ears and allowing her to pick up on our views about something she knows nothing about. In that moment, I realized I was teaching my daughter the wrong things about Trump.
After all, we can't object to Trump's attempts to indoctrinate a nation with hate and at the same time indoctrinate our own children.
Teachable moments come from unexpected places.
We can teach about compassion - How sad it must be to live with such a narrow world view, how scary it must be to find yourself consumed by hate stirred by people just because they are different than you. We can teach our children that blacklisting entire groups of people based off race, religion, gender and economic status is never okay. We can educate our children about advocacy and empathy; we can talk about the lives that are impacted by Trump's piercing words, and how their lives will change if Trump wins this election. We can show our children that no matter the varying views of others (even Trump), holding hatred in our hearts not only damages the people around us, it damages us too.
We can teach about tact and grace, and that although the President of the United States is responsible for large issues that face our country, he is also responsible for setting an example for the citizens of our country- both adults and children. We can explain our hopes to our children that our next President will lead with a clear head that sees all people in our great country as equal, that he/she fights for them all fairly, and that he/she will make our country feel safe.
We can teach about Trump, while not teaching hate.
I have an 8 year old daughter who wants to be a veterinarian, loves Shopkins and Star Wars. But in the end, the only thing I want her to hate is when she runs out of episodes on Netflix and when mascara clumps. An 8-year-old shouldn't hate anyone.
Ashley Alteman is the writer behind SmashleyAshley.com where she details her laugh-out-loud parenting moments, personal trials and triumphs, and everything in between. Her work has appeared on The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Mamapedia, BLUNTmoms, and more. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
This post first appeared on SmashleyAshley.com.