Teaching Children How to Take a Stand

An essential ingredient of any socially conscious person’s m.o. is taking a stand, whether for or against something. Taking a stand is a skill that requires discipline. You will likely encounter push-back and so have to be resolved in your position but will get better results if you are graceful with your response. You will likely be asked to explain yourself and you have to decide each time whether it is an appropriate time to. Sometimes the questioner will be genuinely curious and you’ll have an excellent opportunity for a real discussion. Other times, the person is only asking so that they can dismiss and trivialize your answer. There is no need to bother at these times. But you also have to know how to handle disregard and general opposition. You have to know how to find and build community with like-minded people. You have to learn how to be an ally and give and receive support. If you do not personally know anyone who is willing to stand with you, you have to know how to be inspired and borrow strength from more well known activists, through their writings and speeches. Yes, taking a stand is a skill that requires practice and determination to be successful.

I believe that the best way to teach this to children is by modeling throughout their childhood. So let them witness and overhear as you express concern or even outrage over whatever issues get you riled up. Make personal choices that align you with your cause. Let them watch you navigate other people’s responses and reaction. It is ok if they witness you making mistakes because they will learn from those too.

In the interest in building community and supporting you in your causes I will share with a stand I have made, one that is largely unpopular. I have decided to no longer participate in Thanksgiving activities. My girls go with their dad to his family celebration and I stay home.

Sure, like many, I have wonderful Thanksgiving memories: gathering with family, running around with my cousins, a delicious home-cooked meal, sneaking more cranberry sauce with an older cousin. But I want to be an ally to indigenous communities and for me that starts with not celebrating Thanksgiving, a day a previous indigenous coworker called “day of colonialism,” a day that many indigenous communities have designated as a day of mourning.

Remember the pilgrim and “Indian” story we were fed as young kids about the first thanksgiving? If you haven’t heard by now, or figured out on your own, how much bull that story is, you can learn more about what really happened at Native Circle and UAINE. If you feel like you can personally reject this fraudulent story while still gathering with loved ones to rejoice in gratitude, I encourage you to check out these articles written on Alternet and The Bottom Line.

So why do I let my toddler and infant go with their dad to celebrate Thanksgiving with family? Because I would rather teach them to think for themselves than force my principles on them. They will make their own decision about it when they are older, although I assure you it will be an informed decision. Even if they do continue endulging in a turkey-fest the third thursday of each November for the rest of their lives, there is much I hope they take from my example. I hope they learn to think critically, I hope they have the courage to stand up for what they believe in even if loved ones don’t understand (even if I don’t understand), I hope they keep strong through all the push back, I hope outrage inspires action.

So take a stand. Even if it is difficult. Especially if it is difficult. Your kids will be better for it.

As for me, people have been challenging thanksgiving for decades, so I may be home alone but I know I am in good company.

Photo by Derek Rose (license)

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