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How to Engage with Younger Relatives Over the Holidays—on Politics and Everything Else

Posted on Monday, December 13, 2021
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AMAC Exclusive – By The Gallic

holidays

The holidays are upon us and thus comes the influx of students from many age groups who will soon be clamoring around your table, wanting to explain to you just what they have learned, in such ways as to make you squirm uncomfortably as they explain the way they now look at life.  

What can one do with today’s youth?

Depending on their age, most students either cannot understand logic or are not ready for it.  A 6-year-old might be fully enthralled with the idea of a fat man in a red suit who comes down the non-existent chimney to drop off gifts with the labels still attached.  No amount of logic will dissuade the little crumb cruncher, and of course, it would be foolish and cruel to try. It is hard enough to get them quietly in bed on Christmas Eve as it is.  

The slightly older ones are similarly not looking for logic but want to have a good time. Snowball fights, sledding down the hills at breakneck speed, and displaying complete ignorance of the consequence of their actions are their modus operandi of choice. Perhaps you have seen a group of young men who have broken a window during the game they were playing.  They come in apologetically and announce, “We were playing ball and the window broke.”  Two unrelated events; the remarkable coincidence that a window would break while a game simultaneously goes on is beyond calculation.  Yet that is precisely what they will say.  (My grandmother, God bless her soul, always claimed that the girls would take ownership of the window breaking.  I will let the reader decide if she was correct.)

The oldest ones, the college students and beyond, may come fixing for a fight.  Not a knock-down-drag-out one, but many of them have just learned from their teachers how wrong their parents and grandparents are. Sound familiar?  What are we to do?

Here are a few ideas:

When speaking with them, at the dinner table, or in casual conversation, the first principle is to look for common ground.  The desire to set the youth straight is strong, especially if they are college students. To do so one ought to consider the world they live in.  When your high schoolers or returning college students complain about “systemic racism” or looming environmental disasters, ask them to first explain.  Then, as a general matter, I try to find points of agreement in response. Why? Agreeing, when possible, not vaguely but definitively, helps them see that the unspoken premise they are often taught by teachers – “adults are always wrong” – is itself erroneous.  Instead of allowing others to dictate that there must be dissension, prove them wrong by finding peace if you can.  

But what if you cannot? Sometimes the positions held are stark ones and do not leave much room for negotiation.  In such a moment, if used sparingly, parents and grandparents have a trump card which they can employ: the voice of authority.  These young relatives have been listening to you for a long time; take advantage of that.  Always try to state the other side’s position first and then demonstrate their mistake.  For instance, the position, “we are a racist country that has stolen the land from the natives” could be restated, “so you are saying, the Native American tribes we found here own this country? Are you going to give it back to them? How would you do that practically and what about the tribes they originally displaced?”

Here it is also important to remember that today’s young people are not the first – and will undoubtedly not be the last – generation of Americans to be coaxed into righteous indignation by their left-wing professors and progressive politicians over the supposed evils of the United States. Indeed, fixating on America’s historical blemishes in order to co-opt the empathy and good intentions of young people to consolidate political power is one of the favorite pastimes of the cultural left. What you can offer as an alternative is the idea, espoused by many of America’s greatest heroes, that the true defining characteristic of our country is the collective ability of the American people to face past injustices head-on, forever striving toward the promise of “a more perfect union” envisioned by our Founding Fathers.

In my experience, if you phrase your responses as questions, you leave the conversation open and the ongoing dialogue often has a way of bringing young minds back to the world of reason. But when you flat out state the truth, even if you are unassailably right, you will very often end the conversation for better or worse. 

Many, even most, young people hold positions that they will later discard. But the way their family made them feel when they discussed such positions will not be forgotten.  Families for centuries have found that the bond that unites us is not quite so unbreakable as one might assume.  It can indeed be broken, and once shattered, like Humpy Dumpty, getting back together is a tough business.   A minimum goal for these events might be simply to end with everyone happy, or at least on speaking terms.  Your time with your maturing children compared to their teachers is very short.  However, your impact can be great all the same.  There are no secret codes, magic words, and no iron-clad logic that will convince a child who is not willing to listen, but there is another way that might help.

A kind word properly said, a warm cup of hot chocolate offered to a cold hand, a warm cinnamon bun fresh out of the oven (surveys have shown young men find this the most romantic smell, even beating bacon!), a nativity scene in the dim lights of the evening, a warm fire crackling on a cold night, or fresh cookies might prove to be more impactful than a week-long argument and almost certainly prove more memorable.  The old adage that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach came about largely because it is true.  I have watched the most unruly of youths be cowed into submission by the mere threat they would be excluded from some tasty morsel.  Use food to win over hearts and minds.  It seldom fails.

And above all, I promise if you make the experience of your holiday visit worthwhile and different they will stick.  I can still close my eyes and see my grandparent’s home in Danbury Connecticut and smell the turkey and sweet potatoes.  We were always greeted with smiles and good food, and the lessons I learned thereof sharing and caring, of listening and speaking, have never been forgotten.  When they died well into their 90’s, we all had memories aplenty and they were happy ones.

The Gallic is the pen name of an educator with over 30 years of experience, who spends his time helping schools get better at teaching their students and parents happier at sending them to those schools.

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Mario Capparuccini
Mario Capparuccini
2 years ago

Just remind them who pays the tuition. If the young ones are paying for their own expenses, then they are entitled to their own opinion. If I am paying, then they have to listen. Simple as that.

Mimi
Mimi
2 years ago

I have 5 grandchildren. The three older ones have jobs, which is required at their house when they were old enough to get work permits in high school. That is, if they wanted to get a car, gotta have a job first. Have to pay your own insurance and gas. Those that work are very conservative, can’t wait to vote for conservative candidates. Can’t stand Biden. They see firsthand what liberals do to their financial life. Gas is very expensive now, less money for fun stuff. They were raised in a Christian family, know right from wrong. The Bible says “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he WILL NOT depart from it”. It’s true. Gotta start when they are young. Love them, discipline them, and take them to church. Much less liberal when they start working.

George
George
2 years ago

Talk to them about money and how much they should expect to get from your will. That is what they are primarily interested in.

HocasPocas
HocasPocas
2 years ago

If you’re children, grandchildren and other folks including adults were brought up with the Word of God (Bible), then they should have the tools needed to distinguish what is right, what is wrong and make the right decision for the circumstances. If they haven’t been brought up with this life giving tool, then I suggest you introduce them to it. God Bless America and all it stands for. Amen and Amen!

Reaganomics One
Reaganomics One
2 years ago

As a parent of a lovely young socialist, I heartily endorse the suggestions for the family table conversation over the holidays. Let me add a checkmark to finding common ground and asking questions in a conversation with young socialists or leftists or progressives. I see young adults embracing concepts that give them no inner satisfaction, but rather a cold, elitist, vacuous personal stance. Be warm, patient, and see if they gravitate towards warmth and caring.

Eddie Van Halen
Eddie Van Halen
2 years ago

EVERYONE who I communicate with, EVERYONE, is a Conservative. I don’t understand why that is.

Steven E King
Steven E King
2 years ago

It is just my wife, me and our dog at Christmas and we love it that way. Family all live in other states and always expected us to travel. Weather is a great excuse. My daughter and family live in Arizona. I wouldn’t let them in if they showed up at our door and I am sure not going to see them. My daughter last year decided I needed lectured for not supporting the BLM terrorists and defunding the police. Grandkids are the same way. Glad she did because it is saving us a lot of money. That money now goes to charities that we have vetted. Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!

Joe from Las Vegas Nevada
Joe from Las Vegas Nevada
2 years ago

Rule Number Two: Liberals always accuse Conservatives of what they themselves are guilty of.

Honey
Honey
2 years ago

Rule number one, you can never discuss any politics with a liberal. He is sure of himself (Not) and will never let you make a point without interrupting you or talking over you or saying I don’t want to talk about this. (Think of The View)
Conservatives are generally more polite, more logical and enjoy the sport of the argument. But a liberal can never allow you to talk because if you land one point, his whole logical system collapses and he can never let that happen.

So back to rule one – if you want a happy dinner, talk about the weather instead.

Brian Carrozza
Brian Carrozza
2 years ago

You can’t engage with anyone in the family if they don’t allow you to join them for the annual family Christmas celebration because you cannot be vaccinated due to terrible vaccine side effects.

What can be done is to remove the offending offspring from inheriting anything due to disrespect, and that was immediately done upon the invitation removal. One day they will realize that disrespecting your elders is not only anti-biblical but just plain stupid.

Morbious
Morbious
2 years ago

Come on folks. Whats the goal anyway, to be popular or to pass on generational wisdom? If you tell the truth to millennials you may be ostracized, cut off from contact or even reviled. Friends, do you wish to go to your graves having not spoken up? Truth spoken now may need to incubate in the minds of the young…. Till after we’re gone. What will our legacy be? Trying to be stylish and relevant, or doing our best to transfer what weve learned to the youth?

Joe from Las Vegas Nevada
Joe from Las Vegas Nevada
2 years ago

I’ve tried for many years to avoid politics, but it all came to a head with the 2020 election. The eldest Niece (32), started posting on Facebook to “Get the Orange Out” and “Orange Man Bad”. I asked her to tell me why President Trump was a bad President, and name one thing the Democrats had done in the last several years. She could not. In 2018, I asked my Sister and her Husband if they were getting LESS TAXES taken out of their paychecks. Her reply was: “Yeah, but I’m not getting the refund I’m used to getting.” The middle Niece (27) said I have no right to vote because I do not have a uterus!! The youngest Nephew, fresh out of college, wanted to shut down the country, again, pay off his student loans. He got a degree in “Outdoor Survival” and works for a tour company with rafts and tents. Oh, did I mention my Sister still pays their cell phone bills?

Sorry, I gave up. Told them not to screw with the price of gas, my 401K, or Israel. That was November 2020. Gas has gone up, my 401K has taken a plunge, and if they pass the regulation, I could be double taxed, and it looks like the Democrats want to defund Israel and promote Hamas.

George Washington's Admirer
George Washington's Admirer
2 years ago

Ha…ha…Have another look at the holiday picture above. The reality is: Where have all the cell phones gone? Normally, everyone holiday or not, has their face stuffed into their cell phone. You ask a simple question and the answer is: “I’m in the middle of something!” or “I’m sending a text message”. Really. The only remedy is to confiscate ALL of the cell phones at the front door;
until after dinner!… Offer a ‘gift certificate’ as an incentive. Ho. Ho. Ho…(Even Santa has his beard burrowed into his cell.) Look outside and his reindeer are sending texts too! Merry Christmas!

Linda K
Linda K
2 years ago

My wise niece says at a party she avoids controversy by asking “What are you drinking?” Stays out of trouble that way!

R.J. from Arizona
R.J. from Arizona
2 years ago

I was taught years ago, and I live by this today. You don’t discuss politics and religion. There is no winner.
I have also said this several times,,,you are not going to change my mind and I am not going to change yours,,,so let’s just enjoy each other’s company.
It works for me.

Judy
Judy
2 years ago

This is nicely written. I’m old school and was taught by my parents more of a tough love growing up. Sadly, we were not a close knit family so having light conversation was rare. We were taught that when you’re in someone else’s home you abide by THEIR rules. Of course some 50 years ago manners were a big deal. Now seems anything goes, manners out the window. The writer brought up some very good points. Many parents don’t really have any idea how to approach their college age young adults. Here’s what I would probably do before they came to visit:
I would call them to get their feelings about coming home for the holidays. Sometimes they are depressed, so mentioning all the great food and seeing family they haven’t seen for a while can help cheer them up. Letting them know they’re loved and missed helps too, calming reservations from any problems in the past. Then, depending on my young adult’s attitude, whether he or she is respectful during our conversation the invite will proceed. Some college age kids are so far gone being on the Left, that asking them if they have somewhere to go for the holidays would be best; and if they didn’t then they would be told they are to be respectful while they’re home visiting or they’d be out on their ear. There are behaviors I absolutely will not tolerate from anarchist kids. Love them, but I won’t allow my kids to walk all over me or anyone else. This really is a tough time for many regarding their indoctrinated kids. Thank God I raised my kids before things have gotten so bad with all the Marxist teaching in the schools. I wasn’t what any would call the best parent either. We all have said it, “If I had the chance to do it all over again……”
We had some serious issues that have estranged my kids from me. Seems I’ve spent a lifetime blaming myself for it, but my faith has helped me move on. I’m grateful I have at least two of my grandchildren I have a wonderful relationship with. They can heal our hearts.
Christmas is a special time to be spent with family, and we celebrate the birth of the only begotten Son of God. We let everyone know that so they all know what to expect. My kids also are aware which sometimes creates friction because of their current state of mind. So, I guess if one’s family is pretty good about getting together, then it will more than likely work out and the holidays will be a blessing spent together; if one’s family, for the most part, doesn’t get along, then I would think having only family who can shelf their differences for a time together is the way to go.

MERRY CHRISTMAS
EVERYONE! ????????????

ops
ops
2 years ago

Crispy seniors have travelled a greater distance in life to know where we were, where we are now, and where we are going based on history. Unfortunately, our youth have but a snap shot in life. To them this is their world they live in, however as the saying goes if one does not learn from history then one is doomed to repeat it. Wonder why history is not being taught in our schools? That is why it is important to reach out and bring them into the light on our history, our heritage. As often said to our grandchildren, if you cannot trust Pop Pop or Grandma then who can you trust? We care for you, your future and want only the best that life and America has to offer under the umbrella of freedom. Tap into that wisdom.

Martin Plecki
Martin Plecki
2 years ago

What a good and worthwhile article. And, I couldn’t agree more. Unlike the Oldrealist post, I think reasoned discussions of current topics makes the party more worth attending. And, why give up an opportunity to share views you know are right, as long as it avoids anger and hurt feelings. But, I know that can be easier said than done.

Granky
Granky
2 years ago

You could always text them. That seems to be the only way young people know how to communicate.

Hdrydr
Hdrydr
2 years ago

I just tell the young folks to shut up unless they want to get their little feelings hurt. The problem is over quickly.

Oldrealist
Oldrealist
2 years ago

Another tactic is to avoid political talk.

Many students are thrilled by their new ideas that are better than old ideas.

They have little practical experience to test new ideals against. Real life challenges are likely the only way they will discover their errors.

Family challenging their shiny new beliefs is more likely to hardened their positions, however softly done.

Best to talk family stuff and avoid controversy. Seeing the grandchildren later on is more important.

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