If You Want a Conservative Child

In my last column, I proposed some explanations for why many conservative parents have left-wing children.

In a nutshell, American parents who hold traditional American values — such as belief in small government as the basis of liberty, in a God-based moral code, that American military strength is the greatest contributor to world peace and stability, or in American exceptionalism, not to mention in the man-woman definition of marriage or in the worth of a human fetus — are at war with almost every influence on their children’s lives. This includes, most importantly, the media and the schools.

Here, then are some suggestions for raising a child with American, i.e., conservative, values.

First, parents who are not left-wing need to understand that if they do not articulate their values on a regular basis, there is a good chance that after one year, let alone four, at college, their child will adopt left-wing views and values. Do not think for a moment that values are automatically transmitted. One hundred years ago they may have been — because the outside world overwhelmingly reaffirmed parents’ traditional values — but no longer.

You have to explain to your children — repeatedly — what America and you stand for. (That, if I may note, is why I wrote "Still the Best Hope" and why I started PragerUnversity.com.)

Second, they need to know what they will be taught at college — and now in many high schools — and how to respond. When they are told from day one at college that America and its white citizens are inherently racist, they need to know how to counter this libel with these truths: America is the least racist society in the world; more black Africans have immigrated here of their own volition than were came here forcibly to be slaves; and "racist" is merely one of many epithets — such as sexist, intolerant, xenophobic, homophobic, Islamophobic, and bigoted — that the left uses instead of arguments.

Third, when possible, it is best that your child not go to college immediately after high school. One reason colleges are able to indoctrinate students is that students enter college young and unworldly. It is very rare that adult students are convinced to abandon their values and become left-wing. Why? Because they have lived life and are much less naive. For example, someone with life experience is far more likely than a kid just out of high school to understand that the best formula for avoiding poverty is to take personal responsibility — get a job, get married and then have children — not government help.

Teenagers who spend a year before going to college working — in a restaurant, for a moving company, at an office — will mature far more than they would after a year at college. And maturity is an inoculation against leftism.

If your home is Jewish, Catholic, Protestant or Mormon, another option for the year after high school is to have your child devote a year to studying religion in some formal setting. The more your child knows, lives and adheres to the principles of any of these religions, the less likely he or she will convert to Leftism, which has been the most dynamic religion of the last hundred years. For example, it is a fundamental belief of each of these Judeo-Christian religions that the root of evil is within the evildoer. But it is a fundamental belief of leftism that people murder, steal and rape overwhelmingly because of outside influences such as poverty and racism. The moment your child understands that people who commit evil are responsible— not poverty or racism — they cannot be a leftist.

Fourth, don’t be preoccupied with instilling high self-esteem in your child. It is the left that believes that self-esteem is a child’s right, something that parents and society owe children. Conservatives believe that everyone, including children, must earn self-esteem. Indeed, the belief in earning — rather than in being given — is conservative.

Fifth, teach character. The left has essentially defined a good person as one who holds progressive social positions — on race, the environment, taxes, health care, etc. That is why the left, including the feminist left, could so adore Bill Clinton who regularly used his positions of power to take advantage of women: He held progressive positions.

If your child recycles or walks five kilometers on behalf of breast cancer, that is lovely. But if your child refuses to cheat on tests or befriends an unpopular kid at school, that is character. And teaching that definition of character is more often done in a conservative (usually a religiously conservative) context.

It is not all that hard to produce a son or daughter able to withstand left-wing indoctrination. You just have to understand that it doesn’t happen automatically.

Dennis Prager’s latest book, "Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph," was published April 24 by HarperCollins. He is a nationally syndicated radio show host and creator of PragerUniversity.Com.


  • Bob Olden

    My 4 children were all brought up to believe in Jesus Christ and to live by Biblical values. Three of them married and have started families. Yet the three that started families all incline toward the left, and partly that is due to the influence of universities, and partly because of the influence of spouses. As time goes on I expect them to become disillusioned with the left, but just now we can’t really talk about it. It saddens me because there are so many that articulate why conservative values are superior, but they don’t want to listen to these voices. They prefer to listen to NPR (National Public Radio), the major media networks, and watch the Jon Stewart show to get their slant on the news. All we can do is love them and pray for them and maintain a relationship that avoids talking about politics and current events.

    I’m afraid that the powerful propaganda tools of the left often outweigh the influence of 18 years of parenting. I hope I’m right that it won’t last. I’ll know that for sure when they start complaining about how the government has screwed things up. Hopefully they will be smart enough to blame the right people! (I should say, the LEFT people.)

  • JRawl

    Instead of taking the pragmatic approach, i.e., dealing with the 30 million or so uninsured, he chose to re-vamp the whole American medical care system (the best in the world) to the detriment of everybody. Yeah, wise choice by a know-nothing community organizer.

  • Josh

    Maybe the older cats in the country don’t realize, and perhaps the devoutly religious can’t see it, but it’s the religious principles first and foremost that people are fleeing from. I know plenty of them in my community — a vast, nationwide skeptic movement full up with children who were metaphorically–and perhaps sometimes literally–pounded over the head with holy books.

    Religious people tend to forget that there’s more to these “values” than the new trinity of God, politics and country. Young people today, who actually go out and live in the world, also see bigotry, misogyny and cruelty in there.

    I think a better plan to raise conservative children is to treat their upbringing like science instead of religion.

    Think of it like putting together a remote control airplane. Show them how it’s constructed and how it works, allowing them to also see what doesn’t work and what to avoid.

    Do these parents want religious kids or kids who simply aren’t progressive liberals when they grow up? Blending politics and religion too heavily isn’t going to work out well for this generation and generations henceforth. It’s a different world not only because of liberals, but also because of the free and ready access of information.