Teaching Your Children How to Protest Responsibly, Part 4
In this 4-part series, we are discussing how parents can teach their children to protest responsibly. In Part 4, we will discuss how parents should frame the conversation.
What Should Parents Do?
Some schools may choose not to take advantage of this teachable moment, but you can certainly have some enlightening conversations at home.
Use these protests to spark conversations with your child about race, racism, and prejudice, policing, the First Amendment, good citizenship, protests and their ability to affect change and more. If your child has questions, do your best to answer them or to find helpful resources.
You can also educate your child about America’s history: the history of racism and the civil rights movement, athletes as activists, and dissent that has inspired change over the years. Talk to your child about the military, the military history of black veterans, and what our servicemen and women genuinely fight for.
The NFL protests have been portrayed as disrespectful to the flag and military veterans. However, numerous veterans have stated that these protests represent precisely what the military is fighting for: the freedom to voice our opinions and assert our rights as citizens of this nation. It’s possible to show pride in your country and want better for the United States and its people.
Teach your child that all emotions, even anger, frustration, and sadness, are acceptable. What matters is how people respond to these feelings. Peaceful protests, therefore, are a positive way to express anger and frustration and potentially make a change.
What if your child feels passionate about these issues and wants to participate in the protests?
Discuss pros and cons with your child. What are the benefits of joining the protest? Why do they feel so strongly about joining? What possible consequences might they face? Viral news stories or social media posts could result—Are they prepared for this? Could the record of this protest impact their future?
If your child is at a public school, you may choose to let them make the final decision for themselves. Encourage your child to think independently, express their beliefs, and then have the strength to deal with potential consequences. Teach them that while it’s important to follow school rules, their constitutional rights do supersede school policies in this case.
However, if your child attends a private school, you may want to encourage caution. Consider the rules of your child’s school. Could they face suspension or expulsion for protesting? Explain these consequences to your child, and ask if there’s anything else they can do to join the protest symbolically.
Maybe this is a moment of truth for you as a parent. Do you want your child to continue to attend a private school that limits their constitutional right to free speech and peaceful protest? It may be time to weigh your options. There are likely public or private educational alternatives that you could explore.
Children need the support and approval of their parents. If your child is an independent thinker with the conviction to voice his opinions, view this as a positive, and don’t be afraid to stand—or sit—behind him.
Like other peaceful protests in American history, the national anthem protests have fueled crucial conversations across the country. These protests have the potential to influence public thinking and inspire change.
As young people have gotten involved, these protests have also raised questions about student rights on school property and at school events. At public schools, students’ Constitutional right to freedom of expression and speech do not stop at the classroom door. Private schools may make their own rules, and athletic events are a murky area.
For parents, these protests create an opportunity to talk to your child about important ideas and the history of our country. Ask and answer questions of your child, and explain that dissent is not unpatriotic. Most importantly, support your child if they wish to express their opinions about racial injustice through peaceful protest. After all, protesting is about as American as it gets.
Click here to read all 4 parts of this series.