Salvo 04.06.2021 5 minutes

Vaccinate Your Children Against Brainworms

Little girl staring at TV

A survival guide for raising your kids in a woke world.

Parents can no longer trust American institutions to support them in raising healthy adults. Schools, entertainment, and cultural institutions are pumping woke dogma into every crevice of our society. Kids are subject everywhere to the hazard of debilitating indoctrination.

I’m often asked how I managed to lead my kids through an educational system in which leftist ideologues rule the roost. I’m the father of two rock-solid, highly educated non-woke children. How did they get this way?

It’s a good question. Here are tips for keeping children grounded in reality as the world goes mad.

Raise them religious, and start early. During their formative years, kids revere their parents. But once they’re teenagers, they’re not as teachable. If you do not lead them to religious faith, they will likely adopt faith in the woke religion instead. Instilling religious faith in your children is, of course, an end in itself. But Biblical Christianity and Orthodox Judaism will anchor your children in eternal, unchanging truths.

These will prove resistant to the sophistry of college professors and the seductions of Hollywood. Even secular parents, at the very least, should internalize and impart the principles of the Book of Proverbs. These represent the accumulated wisdom of the most sagacious, accomplished people to ever walk the face of the planet. With a strong religious foundation, your children will be much less likely to accept the relativist pieties of the Left as adults.

Model good behavior. Work hard, stay sober, be kind, and do justly. If your life is a disaster, it’s unlikely that your children will want to emulate your choices. When you make a mistake, be honest. Apologize. You will get a lot of credit for modeling accountability and practicing what you preach.

The influential preacher and psychologist James Dobson suggested allowing your children to make suggestions for your New Year’s resolutions. The candid feedback you receive from young children can be very meaningful. Even when they’re little, they’re very perceptive. Invite your kids to participate in your quest to improve yourself.

Create family traditions. Every Sunday during Advent when my kids were little, we would turn off all the lights in the house at sundown. I would read them a Bible story, then they could watch a Christmas cartoon like Frosty the Snowman or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Afterward we’d make homemade calzones.

There were daily traditions too. Each day, I would write down a message on an index card in my children’s school lunchbox: a simple exhortation (“be your best”), or a Bible verse (“whatever you do, work at it with all your heart”), or a famous quote (“never, never, never, never give up”). I found out years later, that my children kept all of those thoughts of the day in a little box. My kids loved these traditions, and the lessons remained stamped on their souls.

Teach your children to question authority and critically analyze everything they are taught. They are going to have to navigate a world in which the major sources of authority are compromised or collapsed. When my children were in first grade, I told them that one-third of everything their teachers would tell them is wrong, and their job was to figure out which third. At this point, that proportion might be highly optimistic.

Take care of your kids’ inner lives. If you simply plop your child down in front of Netflix and let them have at it, they will be indoctrinated by the experience. Especially when your children are young, you should be careful to control what they watch on screens. And be intentional with bedtime stories: Our kids relished classics like Lord of the Rings early on, and as they became teenagers we introduced them to the thought of minds like Edmund Burke and Thomas Sowell.

Don’t lie to your kids about the real world. When ours entered high school, we started watching The Bachelor with them. This might seem like an odd practice, but the show provoked discussions about mistakes in dating and the pitfalls of sexual immorality. Children are going to confront hook-up culture. Don’t shield them from that reality: instead, find ways to critique that culture before your children show up at college.

Have meaningful conversations at the dinner table. As our children went into adolescence, we discussed politically sensitive topics daily. I made a habit of reading Real Clear Politics every day and trying to learn the strongest possible arguments for the liberal position on any controversial topic. We would then discuss the flaws in the liberals’ position. Your children should understand the other side‘s best arguments.

Be honest about the shortcomings of your own side. No political party is perfect, and some politicians are incompetent, corrupt, and dishonest. When you spot flaws on your side of an issue, you should be ready to point those shortcomings out to your children.

Connect your children to the real America. This is particularly important for those of us who live in major metropolitan areas on the coasts. My children were exposed at an early age to rodeos (they love bull riding), we enjoy visiting state fairs, and our favorite restaurant remains Waffle House.

If you can, let them see all of America: the natural beauty no less than the areas that are struggling with opioid addiction, rampant crime, and epidemics of fatherlessness. At the very least, they should be exposed to the breadth of the American experience through books like J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy.

Last, but most importantly: just be there. Be present in your children’s lives. It’s hard to have an influence on your children if you are constantly traveling or fulfilling your own hobbies and interests. Make them your interest. And make sure you’re on the same page as your spouse. Even if you’re married to a spouse with opposing views on religion and politics, you should insist on being able to articulate traditional principles and views.

If you just agree never to discuss controversial topics at home for the sake of peace, then you’re going to end up with a woke child. The educational institutions in this country will fill that void with non-stop indoctrination. The days are gone when we could trust our national culture to build up our kids. Never abdicate parenting responsibility—because if you don’t parent your kids, our increasingly polluted regime will do it for you. You won’t like the results.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

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