I started writing this a day or so before Super Tuesday, and then it happened. If you had the opportunity to be watching CNN on that night, you would have seen the exchange between Van Jones and Jeffrey Lord. The moment when Van spoke about his seven-year-old son using the word “liar” because he had heard it on the news in relation to the ongoing vitriol surrounding the GOP primary race, I cringed. For weeks I had been asking out loud what I had heard from others, “How can someone who behaves like a school yard bully continue to have such popular traction?” While, yes, my inquiry has a political note to it, another more immediately pressing issue is how to respond as a parent to watching a party front runner calling people names, and final eventuality of those trailing him stooping to the same level.
I’m fortunate enough to have older children (now 13 and 16), so the dialog is more mature, more along the lines of who they would rather see as President of the United States. My kids are young enough, however, that I’m not that far removed from where Van Jones is right now. We spend so much time in schools, and in the culture surrounding schools talking about bullying. There are numerous programs that aid educators in reducing bullying in schools. So many programs one could argue that there is an entire industry devoted to the subject.
And along comes Trump.
Anyone can take the time to look up all of Trump’s behavior that has flirted with or could be labeled blatant bullying. And even if a Trump supporter can justify any of these moments as shedding political correctness, or telling it like it is, the question still remains, “Would you be OK with your child behaving like that? Would you be OK with someone treating your child that way?” I venture to guess in the majority of cases no one would want their own child to be on the receiving end of the childish vitriol Trump spews.
So, if that is the case, why is it OK for him to do this in a public setting, while running for the position that most consider to be the leader of the free world? Is this an example of what a successful leader looks like? And how does someone explain to their older elementary school-aged children the behavior of this man?
The title of this piece is not a rhetorical question. I’m confident that there are as many ways to deal with how to parent in the face of Trump as there are parents asking the same question. Perhaps this becomes one of those uncomfortable life lessons all children learn at some point that not every person you meet in your life will end up being your friend.