Why I’m Taking My 4-Year-Old Daughter To Vote With Me This Weekend

child politicsThis weekend, my state’s Democratic candidates for Senator and Governor will be throwing a small meet and greet in my city. It will be at a park a couple blocks away from the early voting site. They’ll have coffee and donuts, but no big speeches or crazy pep rallies. Just a small drive to get out the vote and meet some constituents. My husband and I are planning on attending, casting our early ballots, and bringing along our 4-year-old daughter.

I have to admit, I’m a little leery of getting children involved in politics. I think kids are exploited by plenty of people when it comes to elections. I don’t really want to set my child up to be indoctrinated in a certain cause or party. I would rather wait until she’s older and then help her research and think critically about both political parties and every issue in between them. So at first, I was concerned about the idea of taking her to a Democratic meet and greet. I was even concerned about taking her to vote with me, where she’ll see exactly where mom’s loyalties lie.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it’s impossible to show my daughter the political process without admitting that there are opposing sides and viewpoints. That doesn’t mean that I should shield her from politics all together. It just means that I need to be thoughtful and give plenty of fair and balanced explanations throughout the process. And there’s no reason we can’t start that process right away. Even better, why not do so on a weekend when we can take our time and she won’t make things more hectic for adults who are trying to get in and out of the polling places on their lunch hour?

I believe that politics are important. I think participating in the electoral process, voting, and supporting candidates you believe in are all essential tasks for engaged citizens. I wouldn’t feel qualified to ever complain about politicians if I didn’t make the time to vote on who represents me. And I’ve voted every since I turned 18. I want to pass this engagement on to my daughter, and the best way to do that is to show her why it’s important, no matter which side of the aisle you fall on.

That’s why I decided that this year, I’m taking her with me to vote. I’m letting her meet people who are campaigning to run our state, or represent us in the Senate. Whether these candidates win the election or not, my little girl will see what our politics look like, how they play out. It seems like a big lesson for a couple hours on a Saturday morning, but I think getting out there is the best way to show her. Children absorb so much of what they see and do. Why not let her see this aspect of our culture?

As the years go on, my daughter and I will start to discuss actual political positions. Not only will I share my own beliefs with her, I’ll take her to hear speakers who have opposing views. I’ll  make sure she sees that most people are just trying to do what they think is best for the country. But more than anything, I’ll want her to know how important it is to get involved. The best way to do that is to let her see that politics are important to her parents.

(Photo: Courtnee Mulroy/Shutterstock)

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    • Lori B.

      By taking your daughter to vote with you, you are showing her that voting is important to you. I have fond memories of going to the polling place with my parents, going behind the curtain and pulling the lever. I have taken my daughter to vote with me every election since she was born (and even the one before which was 2008). I also don’t think that teaching your daughter your political leanings is such a bad thing as long as you don’t present it as if your way is the only way to think. It would also be important to explain why you have the views that you do. She is smart and her political views at four, will not likely be the same as when she is 24 or 34 or 44, etc. She will take the information you give her, find other information and use it all to make her own informed decision about how to cast her vote when the time comes. The important thing is that she votes!

      • Fabel

        Was coming here to say something similiar– I also have fond memories of being carried into the booth & my mom letting me pull the lever (which I totally miss, by the way. The button just isn’t the same! )

      • Lori B.

        I miss the lever too! We fill out scannable ballots now which I guess will be my daughter’s memory. But it just doesn’s feel the same without the levers:(

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Carmen-Finnigan/841528248 Carmen Finnigan

      Wow that is a wonderful idea. I remember going along with my Mom to vote. I couldn’t wait to register to vote and be a part of the process as well.

    • Brandy

      Yay to you! My only advice–start talking about the issues you and your family find important with her now. I fondly remember my mother and I watching the evening world news every night around dinner time and talking about what was on the news over dinner, even when I was still a little kid (I was four when the Berlin Wall came down and I can remember discussing it with my mother at the time). Through this, she taught me to think critically, to argue my opinion (even when it was wrong :-) or different from hers), and the vocabulary of politics and economics. This was how her parents raised their six kids and how dinner table conversations would go at family events like Christmas. As an adult, I take pride in the fact that I not only know what the pressing issues of the day are, but also that I know where I stand on them and that I can discuss them. I know an appalling number of intelligent people who blindly define themselves as members of party X without really understanding the issues and their chosen party’s perspectives on them; rather, they identify with party X because that is how their parents vote.