Hello everybody, welcome to episode 162 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino, thankful to be with you today with a question that I’m excited about – a parenting question, no less! I am not a parent, but I always love it when parents submit questions and trust me with them anyway. As far as I know, none of the families I’ve offered advice to are destroyed yet, so that’s a win. Today’s question stretches far beyond parenting though, and pertains to something we all find ourselves being hyper aware of – PC culture. Let’s break down political correctness and how to approach it. Here’s the question…
QUESTION: “As the parent of a pre-teen, I’m a little confused about how to talk to my son about political correctness. I grew up at a time and place where we didn’t really think about this stuff. A lot of stuff was said that would be completely unacceptable now, though I do believe that none of my friends or parents ever had bad intent. I want to pass on these same values to my son, values that I believe in. But I worry that he will suffer significant backlash if he says anything that could be taken the wrong way, even if he doesn’t want to offend anyone.“
How Times Have Changed
Nice one! This is super important to talk about, no question about it. I love this question, thank you for sending it in and thank you for approaching your parenting mindfully like this.
Your son is in good hands. Let’s start by talking a bit about PC culture before getting into how to approach it with children.
You said yourself that times have changed. Terminology that was once more widely acceptable, with or without malicious intent, has a drastically shrunken audience now. Anyone who’s over even 10 years of age can probably notice a difference in their lifetimes.
The change won’t stop any time soon, as expressing personal outrage is in high fashion. And a reminder that personal outrage is indeed personal, so even people who belong to the same groups will have different preferences as to how they’d like to be referred to.
PC Culture from Different Perspectives
It occurred before your childhood and will continue to change long after we’re gone. As political correctness tightens up, it’s a constant push and pull; a constant step forward for some and step backward for others.
Many legendary comedians have asserted that PC culture is killing comedy as well as people’s ability to laugh at themselves and not take themselves so seriously as to be derailed by anything that even smells like a personal slight.
Many progressives or people that belong to marginalized groups on the other hand, feel as though choosing appropriate terminology is reflective of inclusion and helps people of different races, genders, religions, even weight classes feel more welcome in a world that doesn’t always favor them.
You see how both sides feel as though self-confidence is on the table, yet disagree as to what route helps to instill it; interesting stuff.
How to Talk To Your Pre-Teen Son
Armed with this knowledge, if I were parenting a pre-teen right now, I would not be focusing on telling them what words are all right and which words aren’t. It’s a losing game to spend too much time on what words are in fashion, because we know that it’s constantly in flux.
Instead, I’d be instilling the idea that PC culture is always moving – both in what terminology is acceptable and how strongly people are reacting to it.
I recommend talking to your son about these trends. Talk to him about the first amendment, and how people see it differently.
Is hate speech free speech? How is hate speech defined by different people?
It’s heavy conversation, but not impossible to have with a child your son’s age.
Fearing Backlash as A Parent
If this non-partisan thinking aligns with your beliefs so far (totally ok if it doesn’t) then the practical side of this lesson would be to remind your son that it’s not really any inconvenience for him to talk to his peers (especially peers with whom he doesn’t quite know where they stand) about what terminology makes them comfortable.
He’d be doing them a solid at no real expense to him. And as long as he’s making an effort to ask when he can, he shouldn’t stress about the people who may call him out for stepping out of line by their definition.
I know that as his mother, you fear backlash. But, again, there’s really no way to know exactly what’s acceptable to whom and how they’ll respond to it. Your son can always invite conversations with these people as well, and if you want him to symbolize real progress, tell him he needs to make an effort to have civilized discussions with those that oppose him.
Unfortunately there’s an air of silence right now for those who even have questions about PC culture, as if bringing it up is in and of itself, offensive. Of course, this is nonsense.
Once the conversations about these types of things stop, that’s when we have a real problem. Encourage him to not be afraid to seek out respectful conversations about this, and other divisive topics at any given time.
PC Culture and Political Correctness: Conclusion
So while we should all consider some degree of backlash, or at least saying something that someone out there won’t like, to be inevitable, we should still be encouraging ourselves and our children to consider all sides and engage in healthy, open conversations about what is acceptable and what is not.
Keeping the respectful conversation going is a much more noble, effective and realistic effort than trying to please everyone and taking guesses at what kind of rhetoric is the least out of line.
One of our shorter ones today, but I really enjoyed this one. A great question about important stuff.
Asker, I hope this helped you and that you walk away with some advice you have faith in rather than feeling as though I was just spitting my ideology at you. Never mean to do that; I just call it like I see it.
Everyone, if there’s something you’re struggling with that you need a hand with, you know I’m always here.
Email your questions, or any concerns or feedback you might have, to advice AT oldpodcast.com
I appreciate you stopping in and listening all the way through today, folks. I had fun and hope you did as well. I’ll see you back here for the next one on Wednesday. Take care of yourselves until then. Bye everyone.