How do we raise kids to be advocates for social justice? This is a central value of unfundamentalist parenting, that we raise up a generation of young people who will fight for a more just world. And there are many wonderful resources out there to equip parents, but as I’ve said before, parenting is often not what we teach the kids, but cultivating what is already there.
The truth is, children are wired for justice. They innately have a sense of right and wrong, and they have a desire for fairness. Think about little kids who have to watch others open birthday presents at parties? “How come THEY get a present, but WE don’t?” Or the tantrums thrown with screams of, “That’s NOT FAIR!!” Although these may be examples of immaturity, they are also evidence of children’s intuition for justice.
I love what my friend Ken posted on Facebook:
Image provided by Ken
If we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear, the children are quietly telling us what the world is supposed to be like: fair, just, and equal. Yes, there are complexities in running the systems of this world that they are not yet privy to. Yes, they will have to learn life isn’t always fair and to pick their battles. Yes, they will have to lose some of those battles and we should help them develop resilience.
But, sometimes it really is as simple as the children imagine it to be. We should only get two cinnamon rolls if everyone else gets to have two, too. We should lean into the children’s resistance when they call out the world isn’t the way it should be, and let them disrupt our conscience in the ways we have messed up their world.
Social justice isn’t a dirty phrase, and being a social justice warrior isn’t an insult. It is a call to return to our child-likeness, the innocence that dares to believe there can be justice for all.
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