How to Teach Children Liberal Values

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A liberal person believes that the government should take action to help improve the lives of its citizens.[1]
Although you may have your own specific opinions about certain politicized topics, if you want your children to learn values that are typically liberal, take time to understand the stance of liberal people on political issues. Learn how you can help children understand and decide what makes sense for them.

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    Teach body autonomy. It is important that your children understand that they are in control of their bodies, and they don’t have to hug, kiss, touch, or be touched if they don’t want to. [2]
    Liberals believe that people should have control over what happens to their bodies, whether they are a man or a woman, or whether they are young or old.

    • Don’t tell your children whom they have to show affection to. For example, don’t say, “Kiss Grandma before she goes home!” Instead, let them decide how they feel comfortable saying goodbye to grandma.
    • Conversely, it is also important to teach your children that they need to ask permission before touching anyone else. Encourage them to ask Grandma if they can give her a kiss when they have said that they would like to do so.
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    Avoid policing your child’s gender expression. Don’t reinforce the gender stereotyping that leads boys to believe that they shouldn’t show emotions and girls to believe that they have to be dainty and wear dresses all of the time. Instead, let them find out who they are and what they like without injecting your own biases into the situation. [3]

    • For example, let your daughters engage in physical activity, and let them do it the same way that boys do (if that’s what they want). Don’t discourage them from climbing on the monkey bars because you’re worried they’re too fragile. Conversely, don’t discourage a boy from liking something because it’s pink, and don’t say things like “big boys don’t cry” when he feels sad about something.
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    Teach empathy for others. Being empathetic about the experiences of others plays a big role in liberal ideology. Your child will need to develop their own skills of empathy, and research suggests that parents can play a big role in helping develop this skill. [4]

    • For example, research suggests that children who feel secure and loved are more likely to be empathetic.
    • Spend time talking with your child about different emotions and about how emotions can affect our behavior. It doesn’t matter how young your child is: talking to them about their own feelings, as well as your own, will help them understand that everyone has different experiences.
    • Set a good example for your children. Being empathetic yourself is a great way to teach children about empathy. If you and your child witness someone who is going through a hard time (e.g. a homeless person on the street), talk with your child, and ask them how they think that person must be feeling.
    • Expose them to different types of people. Help your children see that people can be quite different when you venture outside your own group of friends. Expose your children to the different cultures and experiences that the world has to offer. For example, you could take them on a trip to a foreign country. While you are visiting that country, ask them to identify what is different about the local people. However, also ask them to notice how they are similar to those people.
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    Teach you children to be tolerant. One of the core values of liberalism is tolerance. It is important to teach kids that being tolerant doesn’t mean sacrificing their own beliefs. It means that children should learn that it is good to be open to learning about the uniqueness of others. [5]

    • This applies to more than merely political values. It also refers to cultural and religious differences as well as the other ways in which people can be different.
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    Explain the need for social support programs. Many liberals believe that it is important that the government fund programs that help people in need. This could involve a range of different programs. For example, if you are fired from your job in the U.S., you are able to get unemployment benefits that will help you take care of your family while you search for a new job.

    • You can demonstrate why this is important by pointing out ways that you or someone you know has been helped through a tough situation by a social support program. You can use an example like this: “Last year Aunt Sarah was fired from her job, and she was very worried for awhile about how she could take care of her family without a paycheck. However, she was able to get money from the government to help feed her family while she looked for a new job.”
    • You can demonstrate the value of social support programs by asking a child what they think should be done in a particular situation. For example, if you see a homeless person asking for money on the street, ask your children how they would help that person. Compare their response to something the government might do.
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    Be in favor of peaceful resolutions. Liberal people tend to be against war as a means of solving problems. War results in unnecessary loss of life, pain and suffering, and money being spent on the military that could have been spent on other things, such as education.

    • One good way to talk about this topic with your kids is to ask them about how they have been taught to solve problems with friends at school. Emphasize that violence is never an appropriate means for solving problems. Point out that many governments resort to violence when trying to solve problems but in the end leave many families feeling sad because they have lost someone they care about.
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    Support immigration. American liberals are generally in favor of immigration laws that make it possible for people to immigrate legally to the United States. Additionally, liberals are typically in favor of extending help to undocumented immigrants who wish to stay in the United States.

    • You can talk with your children about your own family history. Unless you are a Native American, your ancestors immigrated to the US from somewhere else. Point out how many families would like to come to the US to have good lives just like your children have.
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    Support women’s rights. Perhaps one of the biggest debates in politics these days is the issue of pro-choice vs. pro-life. Typically people with liberal values tend to support the pro-choice side of the argument. This is the notion that a woman has the right to choose what she does with her body, and if she wants to have an abortion, that is exclusively her decision.

    • Similarly, be in favor of offering women several methods of birth control. Taking a pro-choice stance doesn’t necessarily mean you think women should get an abortion whenever they feel like it. It does mean, however, that you support giving women (and men) lots of different ways to prevent unwanted pregnancy.
    • This may be a difficult topic to discuss with your child directly, but you can demonstrate that every one should have the right to choose what to do with their body.
    • For example, you can remind your child that they don’t have to touch or kiss anyone if they don’t feel like it. Point out that everyone has this right, no matter their gender.
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    Recognize that marriage is something everyone is entitled to. Another hot debate in the United States in recent years is gay marriage. Liberals tend to support marriage for all people, whether they are heterosexual or homosexual. The point is that love is love, and people should have the right to choose whom they marry, as long as it is with another consenting adult.

    • Talk with your kids about sexuality. You can explain to them that just because they are a girl doesn’t mean they have to “like” boys, and vice versa. Explain how there are many boys who like boys, and girls who like girls, and some who like both boys and girls.
    • Ask your children what they think about gay marriage, and why they think what they think. Ask them if they believe that a person should be allowed to marry the person they love regardless of their gender, as long as the other person also wants to get married.
    • Showing your child that you are open to conversations and questions on any topic will make them more open to discussing topics that they find difficult.
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    Be clear with yourself and your partner about what you want to teach. There are likely many values that you want to instill in your child. Think about which values are the most important to you. It is important to realize that you have only so much influence on your children. Focus on the values that mean the most to you. [6]

    • For example, you may feel very strongly about raising children who are tolerant and open-minded, but you may not care too much about what religion they follow, if they follow any religion at all. You can talk with your children about religion, but don’t make it the most important thing. Instead, focus on setting examples of tolerance. Talk about what can happen when people are narrow-minded and intolerant.
    • In one study liberal parents reported that teaching tolerance was of primary importance. [7]
    • If you have a partner with whom you are raising a child, spend time talking with your partner about what values you want to instill. This could be challenging if the two of you have differing political views. Try to find a middle ground or at least a few areas you can agree on.
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    Don’t force your values on your children. There is research that suggests that if you constantly push your beliefs onto your children, there will be a tendency for them to rebel. [8]
    If you consider yourself liberal and want to raise liberal children, don’t force them to accept that position as though it is the only right way to live.

    • This doesn’t mean you can’t talk to them about your political beliefs and why you hold them. Instead, it means that you should avoid being dogmatic about your beliefs, and try to avoid saying negative things about conservatives in front of your children. Explain both sides of the story, and talk about why you feel liberal values are best for you.
    • Ask them their opinions about things without first telling them what you think. Learn about who they are and how they feel without applying pressure they might come to resent.
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    Answer questions with patience. Your child may come to you with lots of difficult questions about why you believe what you believe, and they may even ask questions that challenge your beliefs. Do your best to avoid losing patience and getting angry. [9]

    • For example, your child may come home from a sleepover and tell you that Jimmy’s dad told Jimmy’s mom that anyone who believes gay marriage is acceptable is an idiot. Your child may ask you why that is. In a situation like this, you may feel very angry that Jimmy’s dad was saying this in front of your child. Instead of getting angry, however, say something like, “Well, Jimmy’s dad might think that is true, and he is entitled to believe that, but gay people are entitled to love whom they love and marry the person who wants to marry them. Do you think that people should be able to marry the person they love, or that they shouldn’t be allowed to because someone else doesn’t like it?”
    • Presenting your response as a conversation in which you explain your own beliefs as logically as possible helps your child to make the idea their own and decide what makes sense to them.
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    Answer questions honestly. Both sides of the political spectrum have their faults, and being liberal doesn’t make you perfect. When your child asks you a question, give an honest answer. Talk about both sides of the issue and why you have chosen to believe what you do.[10]

    • For example, many people start out somewhere on the political spectrum and then move to the other side for some reason. Talk to your children about your early views and why you eventually became a more liberal person. Give examples of events that led you to believe in more liberal values.
    • Keep in mind that when it comes to values, there is not usually an objectively correct answer. There is only a belief in a morally correct answer. Keeping this in mind will help you avoid being dogmatic.
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    Avoid speaking hatefully about those with whom you disagree. If you are a very political person, you might have strong opinions about those with other points-of-view. You may think conservatives are nothing more than racist bigots. However, one important value of liberals is tolerance. Thus, you should set an example for children. Be tolerant of those who don’t agree with you.

    • You can explain to children why you don’t agree with conservative values, but do so respectfully without using hateful or derogatory language.
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    Set a good example. The best way to help instill liberal values is to set a good example for your children by living in accordance with those values. Whenever possible, set a good example of what you think it means to be a liberal person. [11]

    • For example, be tolerant of people who are different from you. Don’t criticize someone just because they disagree with you.
    • Try volunteering for a political movement that you support, and bring your kids along. Opt for peaceful movements where your child will be able to see liberal people at their best. Avoid movements that are violent, as this may frighten your child.
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    Talk about why politics is important. For most children, politics is a confusing subject. Take time to explain why it is important to have an opinion about politics.

    • For example, explain to them the two main parties in the US (Democratic and Republican) as well as some of the other parties (e.g., Green Party, Tea Party, Libertarians, etc.). Talk about the values of these parties, and give some examples of members of each party.
    • Explain how in the US everyone over the age of 18 is entitled to vote in elections that will help decide who will run the country. Explain how elected leaders are supposed to represent the will of the people who elected them.
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    Reinforce your ideas through social interactions with like-minded people. Have your children spend time with friends and family who have similar values. Hearing about why other people have similar beliefs will help children decide on their own beliefs.

    • This doesn’t mean that you should keep them away from people who have different values. As they grow older, children will have to learn to deal with the fact that people are different. Since tolerance is a liberal value, showing them that there are people who think differently is important.
    • If they spend time with someone who has strong conservative values, address the matter with your child. For example, you can say, “Today you are going to spend time with Grandpa. Grandpa is a good and kind man, but sometimes he might say something that you don’t think is right. Try to remember that even though he has some different ideas about things, he loves you very much and you love him, too. We don’t have to agree on everything to be a close family.”
  • Despite your best efforts, in the end it is possible your child will disagree with you. While this may be sad for you, do your best to maintain a close relationship with them. Many families are torn apart because of disagreements on who the next president should be. You may not be able to talk about politics together, but there are many other things you can enjoy as a family. It may be best to avoid certain sensitive topics.



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