Raising Savvy Citizens
Cuddle time, crafts, and play dates don’t comprise all of a mom’s duties. It is also our responsibility to help usher our kids into adulthood as upstanding and responsible members of society. While it is easy to cloister ourselves in the home nest for a time, at some point our kids need to face the world head on. Providing a solid education in citizenship allows children to enter the world as informed adults. Whether that means navigating tricky bureaucracy, exercising sound financial judgement, or volunteering to help improve the community, the example we set at an early age sets the foundation from which the next generation builds their communities, their country, and their lives.
Provide a Civics Lesson
As soon as children are old enough, bring them along to the polls on voting day. Bringing your children along to pull the lever or push a screen instills the voting habit young. Toddlers might only note the "I Voted" sticker at the end of their first voting sessions, but as children grow more mature so may discussions of civic responsibility. Walk them through the voting process. Introduce them to polling volunteers. Make sure they are aware of your state’s voter ID requirements, and even feel free to discuss why your vote goes one way or another. Attending election days takes the mystery out of the process, and make certain that kids will be confident in casting a vote by the time they are of age.
If your neighborhood association or town hosts monthly meetings, bring older children along to these events as well. While subdivision matters might seem tedious to your teenager, building the habit of interacting with the community creates an active and engaged citizen. Encourage lively debate and discussion around the dinner table about local matters. Allow your child to form their own opinions, but encourage them also to develop well-informed arguments to support them.
Teach Personal Finance
Personal finance is woefully undertaught as a school subject, however developing good fiscal habits helps young adults get ahead early. Invite your children to shadow you while balancing your monthly statements and paying bills. Open up a savings account in their name and allow them deposit allowances and birthday money into the account.
Young kids often misunderstand credit cards as an unending fountain of money. Without the proper education from parents, this fantasy is often taken into adulthood. Teach them about responsible use of credit cards. Educate about the value of credit card with a low interest rate as well as the penalties of late payments and overdraft fees.
College age students are often bombarded with confusing and often predatory credit card offers when they get to campus. Demonstrate the power of a good credit history by showing the difference interest rates on high ticket items like cars, furniture, and mortgages. Offer to help sift through available credit cards to choose a card that will help develop credit history, but won’t bury in interest.
Get out into the community and do some good as a family. Find an opportunity to volunteer together. Whether building houses with an organization like Habit for Humanity, gathering food at a food bank, or simply shelving books at the school library, encouraging volunteerism not only develops generous habits it also allows kids to gain a rich perspective of the community and learn valuable skills.
Often organizations like the Girls Scouts involve volunteerism as part of their charter. Investigate the options, and make certain to set a good example by logging volunteer hours of your own.
Raising children to be polite and respectful isn’t an easy task – but it is a rewarding one. What tips do you have to raise savvy citizens?