Most parents hope their children will grow up to be well-informed, charitable adults who are politically engaged.
But children don’t go from preschool to the voting booths without some guidance.
When asked whether parents or schools should teach children citizenship, parent Jonathan Brill responded with a resounding "both" in an article for The Atlantic.
“Schools should teach and reinforce lessons consistent with what's commonly accepted to be good citizenship, or at the very least social best practices — if for no other reason than these kids have to be trapped in confined, highly social spaces with one another for something like 13 years,” Brill wrote.
While schools do need to work on building better citizens, it is also parents' responsibility to assist in this goal, Brill said.
“Talking through these things softly and in private in times of little or no stress seems to be way more effective and compassionate than it would be for a teacher,” he wrote. “In this way, I can have neutral, peer-level conversations with my kid about the benefits of socially responsible actions that doesn't come across as authoritative or achievement-based.”
In recent years, many people became concerned about the lack of good citizenship teaching among children, Jon Schnur reported for Time. As a response, many movements sprang up that focused on having parents and schools work together.
One aim of the movement is to build character strengths, such as perseverance and responsibility. Schnur noted that self-discipline is a bigger factor in GPAs than IQ level.
The movement also works on initiating children into democracy, even though they are unable to vote or serve on a jury.
“American education needs a major expansion into all these areas, and these educators are planting initial seeds,” Schnur wrote. “With No Child Left Behind being dismantled, states and local schools have the important opportunity to reassess priorities beyond testing and academics and ensure that we’re not just focused on creating good students but also good citizens.”
The best way for parents to teach students how to be good citizens is by being positive examples and inviting children to help them.
Goodcitizen.org, which is dedicated to helping parents and youth leaders teach children, suggests recycling, encouraging them to say “please” and “thank you,” talking about national issues, volunteering and going to vote together.
Marilyn Price-Mitchell wrote for Psychology Today that children can show their citizenship by being responsible for their actions, leadership and innovative thinking.
“Children can be inspired, equipped, and mobilized to make a difference in the world,” Price-Mitchell explained. “Not only do children's actions help others, research shows it helps them become happier, more successful adults.”
Shelby Slade is a writer for Deseret News National. Email: [email protected], Twitter: shelbygslade.