Following the election of Donald Trump, we have been treated to a series of stories about the feelings that children have about it. While it is clear to sane observers that these fears were instilled by the adults in the children’s lives (and filtered through other talkative children), news publications have nevertheless reported about the little tykes’ thoughts as if they originated from their own analyses of American politics.
Perhaps we have reached the peak of this trend: A Seattle mother started an online group for sending President-elect Trump letters from children about how not to be mean, and the media is treating it with the utmost seriousness.
The letters contain advice like:
Please show kindness to people no matter their race, religion, beliefs, and most importantly, who they are a as a person. I have close friends who are gay, lesbian, black, and Hispanic. My hockey coach is gay and he and his partner’s children are black.
Dear Mr. President, be nice to things. Do not say mean things. This helps me calm down: meditation, reading and resting.
Dear Mr. Trump, Kids in my class are very scared. Please don’t kick them out. In my school we get sent to the wall when we’re in trouble. My friends did not do anything wrong. Don’t send them to the wall.
Dear President-elect Trump, please be a good president. Be kind to all people. Some people in my family are a special religion and they are not bad guys.
Molly Spence Sahebjami got this group started, and this part of the Washington Post’s story about her is telling:
Children “don’t know anything about the issues, like manufacturing jobs,” she said in a phone interview with the Washington Post. “But they know — at least where I live, it’s really prevalent [for kids] to say, ‘Oh, he’s the mean one.’”
So, is our friend saying kids don’t care about legislation and manufacturing, but about what they hear from around their environment (i.e., from adults)?
It doesn’t look like she gets it: “This is an opportunity to seize and teach our children how to be articulate, productive communicators,” she said.
Those who reflect on these letters will recognize that parents’ political prejudices and fears will trickle down to their children, and that makes it pointless to analyze the political thoughts of six-year-olds. It’s time to stop soaking them in politics — and start letting them be kids.