Grow up Government! What We Can Teach Our Children: Part 2

Dr. Robyn Silverman

Yesterday, we discussed how our leaders are behaving like tantruming 2 year olds and getting nowhere.  Perhaps later today will be a different story…

Between those in charge on Wall Street and those in charge in Washington, our adults are more like anti- role models than positive ones.  We’ve been busy pointing fingers at our teen starlets and the bad example they set but are these adults acting any more adult-like and admirable?

[It’s time to] “act like grown-ups, if you will, and get this done for all of the people.” (Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, on bailout plan)

So how can we guide our children and teens to be respectful and responsible at a time when our own leaders are refusing to cooperate? Talk about trickle down! Can we use these top notch blunders to teach a thing or two to our youngsters? Yes we can!

(1) Talk through it in their terms: You don’t need to get into specifics or throw financial mumbo jumbo at them. However, you can talk about what happens when greedy people are in charge of the nation’s piggy banks, lend out money they don’t really have, make bad choices, and then ask others to mop up the mess. You can talk about what happens when leaders point fingers at each other instead of coming together, talking about real solutions, and actually, well, umm, leading.

In other words…”the adults in charge made a really big mess and nobody knows how to clean it up, who should clean it up or when they should clean it up. What do you think Mommy would say?”

(2) Ask questions: This is a great opportunity to engage your children and let them talk. Listen and encourage them to think outside of the box. Children and teens often come up with great ideas—and even the nuttiest ideas might be better than anything our government could come up with at this time. I mean, some might say that a 700 billion dollar buyout was a pretty crazy idea too, right?

a. How can they be more responsible? If the people on Wall Street aren’t being responsible with money, what do you think we should do? What do you think they did wrong? What can we learn from these people about how to manage money responsibly in our own home? How can the people in Washington better do their jobs and come together? Can they do a really good job when they’re angry at each other? What should they do?

[It was] five minutes of the most vicious partisan rhetoric. This is the kind of thing that you expect to hear on the floor of the House from some, you know, insignificant partisan back bencher. You do not expect to hear it from…the Speaker of the House whose responsibility it is to try and set the bipartisan tone to get this bill passed. I was appalled by this.” –Karl Rove on Nancy Pelosi’s speech; The O’Reilly Factor

b. Ask, what should a leader do? When things go wrong, a leader needs to step up and lead the way. Pointing fingers and throwing up hands is useless. Ask you children; if all of people in charge are arguing, pointing fingers, and refusing to talk to each other in a productive way, what do you think happens? As a leader, if you were in charge, what would you do? What is good leadership? Bad leadership? This should breed a lively discussion about leadership. After all, people shouldn’t just wear their titles, they should earn them everyday.

“Our economy is depending on decisive action from the government…This is what elected leaders owe the American people.” – G.W. Bush

“We’re all worried about losing our jobs. Most of us say, ‘I want this thing to pass, but I want you to vote for it – not me’.” (Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan in his speech in support of the Bill)

c. Ask how can they show respect? Obviously, saying disrespectful things and refusing to hear other people out is not getting anyone anywhere. What happens when people don’t listen to each other? What should we tell the “adults” in Washington to do in order to come to a compromise? What is the result of blaming each other when something doesn’t go the way we want it to go? If you were in charge, what would you do?

“Because somebody hurt their feelings they decided to punish the country,” (Barney Frank; House financial services committee chairman, on the claim that following Nancy Pelosi’s speech, 12 Republicans who had planned to vote for the Bill changed their minds and voted against it.)

“Sen. Obama and his allies in Congress infused unnecessary partisanship into the process…Now is not the time to fix the blame; it’s time to fix the problem.” (J. McCain; after the failed vote)

(3) Discuss choices and consequences: We teach our children that every choice has a consequence but adults must tend to forget that sometimes. Talk to your children about the fact that sometimes when we make choices, it affects a lot of people. When we decide to steal, cheat, disrespect, or blame, it hurts other people’s feelings, makes them angry, and cheats other people out of what’s fair for them. Even adults need to deal with consequences.

“The consequences will grow worse each day if you do not act…Our country is not facing a choice between action and the smooth functioning of the free market. We are facing a choice between action and the real prospect of financial hardship” that will be felt across the board.” (G.W. Bush, 9-30-08)

(4) Help them understand how to cope with mistakes: We all make mistakes—even adults. Ask them; when you make a mistake, what do you do? What should we tell the adults to do when they make a mistake? This conversation can highlight issues of blame, trying again, renegotiating, listening, and stepping up when things go down hill.

With so much at stake — with our economy at risk, our children’s future in the balance — the greatest risk in this election is to repeat the same mistakes of the past. We can’t take a chance on that same losing game.” (B. Obama)

As we leave respect month and move on to responsibility month for Powerful Words , we’ll be working with the children on how to grow up to be a better leader and citizen of the world. Perhaps we should leave the door open to some of our politicians and Wall Street tycoons to come to our schools, take a seat, and listen. Everyone needs a refresher course every once in a while.


One Response

  1. […] Economy. Family budget. Excess spending. We’re getting an earful these days.  The economy […]

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