Political efficacy is a term used by Political Scientists to indicate society’s faith and trust in their government. Political efficacy is also one’s belief that their actions has an influence on government. In short, you have a certain level of political efficacy if you vote and believe that, by casting your vote, you are effecting change. As it pertains to raising kids with high political efficacy, I believe that it starts young. Certainly well before our kids are of legal age to cast their first vote. And as it pertains to raising Alina and Sebastian, they will grow up with the value that their vote matters and that their political influence can create change.
Long before I graduated with a degree in Political Science, I learned to equate being born in America with my right to vote. Every election cycle since turning eighteen, my grandmother’s lectures stay at the forefront of my mind: “Don’t forget to vote! You were born here; don’t take your privilege for granted. You have a responsibility to this country.”
My childhood is filled with memories of being nestled in the comforts of my grandparents beach town home, listening to stories of their immigration as political refugees from Cuba, their struggles as Spanish speakers in an English speaking country and, ultimately, the first time they voted as citizens of the United States of America. Their efficacy translated to my own from a young age. At the age of 8, I received a signed photo of our then president in response to a letter I had written after getting detention for chewing gun. The photo hung proudly on my wall until a friend called me a nerd, and then I took it down. I’ve met our current president, for whom I volunteered countless hours in his nomination campaign, and can tell you he is as every bit charismatic as he seems. My grandparents had worked hard to earn their voting right, their political efficacy was high and, as a result, so is mine.
My grandfather passed away a few years ago, but I remember wheeling his chair into his last voting booth like it was yesterday. We were arguing over political ideologies, like we always did. Nevertheless, I always sensed the pride he had knowing that his American grandchildren voted. In the decades since becoming an American citizen, my Papi had conquered the American dream, and he never missed the opportunity to vote. He was born in Cuba, and died an American. His legacy continues in the way I parent my children today…
As a parent, I am mindful of the image I portray of our political system. I don’t whine about our political structure or our country. Sure, I have opinions, but I am mindful of expressing constructive criticism and solutions to match. I show respect to people who have been elected into office, even if I disagree with their political stance. These people have worked their behinds off, were elected by us and at least deserve common courtesy. To have different values is fine, but my parenting goal is to raise kids who believe their voice and actions can have a positive impact on our society. I don’t want to raise whiny, disrespectful citizens that don’t offer actionable solutions on how to support their values. Modeling respect is how I choose to reinforce that parenting goal.
In addition, I always always take my kids with us when we vote. Without discussion or fanfare, the simple act of taking your child to a voting booth to watch you cast your privilege as an American, is invaluable. I remember going to vote as a child, and I know my kids will remember too. But in case you weren’t aware, in this country, you HAVE TO BE REGISTERED to vote. Registration deadlines differ by State, but some are as early as 30 days before the election. Please don’t wait till the last minute and run the risk of being restricted from practicing your right to vote. Follow the rules and register to vote!
I don’t care who you vote for. I just care (really really care) that you are registered to vote AND that you actually go out and vote.
I love being a parent, and being able to expose my kids to the values I hold closest to my heart. Exercising my right to influence my government through voting, without fear of persecution like my grandparents endured, is one of those values.