Monologues of Dissent

Open letters, unsolicited commentary, scathing criticism, invaluable advice and so much more. A blog at the intersection of politics and parenting for lovers of justice, hyperbole and complaint. Oh, and leftist. Very, very leftist.

Heather is a winner of Top 25 Political Moms - 2012

What political issue are you most passionate about?

Justice, education, the return to truly participatory representative democracy, and recalling Scott Walker.

Always, in the front of my mind are these two quotes, which define my political philosophy:

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" - Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor" - Archbishop Desmond Tutu

How do you to teach your children the importance of civic duty?

There's only one way to teach this: by example.

My children come with me. We march together, we vote together, we talk together, we listen together. They see me paying attention and working it out, and they do the same. I encourage them to ask questions, talk to people and keep their minds open. I don't want my kids to grow up as political robots who just automatically hate or distrust anyone whose ideas aren't aligned with their own - I want them to be able to negotiate all the shades of grey that make real progress possible. I want them to be confident enough to question and challenge what they hear, and humble enough to know that there's always more to the story than what they know now. Keep an open mind, but never stop fighting for what you know is right.

What's a political issue you've changed your views on?

I change my views all the time: that's what being informed is all about. Many issues are very complex and aren't just a question of party politics. One example is the increased funding and attention on charter schools in recent years. I used to be pretty enthusiastic about this, as I've seen some great charter schools in action. But charter schools and voucher programs are a good example of programs that seem very attractive to both parties when presented in a certain way, but actually drain massive amounts of public funds away from public education and into private ventures and special interests - I think if people really saw what went on behind the scenes in these deals (and the shockingly low performance of many of the schools), they would have much less public support.

What is your best tip for not losing your temper with children?

Heather DuBois Bourenane

I think it's healthy for kids to know that parents have a range of emotions, just like they do, so you can talk about that together. But when I feel like I'm *really* about to lose it when my 5 and 7-year-olds act up, I tell them I need a "Mommy Time Out" because I can't think of anything to do but shout. I make a little show of stepping back (or out of the room but within sight), closing my eyes, taking a deep breath, standing up straight and calming down to center my thoughts. Then I say, " Ok, let's talk" or "Ok, let's solve this problem." I try to model what I'd like them to do when they get mad at each other - namely remove themselves to cool down instead of bark or bite.
View All Answers

How much help should parents give their kids with homework?

Heather DuBois Bourenane

I'm surprised at how many parents on this thread don't think parents should get involved with their children's homework. Studies show that parental involvement is the number one indicator of academic success, and beyond volunteering in the classroom, there's no better way to get involved than to be an active part of your child's take-home work. Helping with homework does not mean doing the work for them, or trying to reteach what the child should have already learned in school. Homework should be review, not material that is new to the student. Parents can help by staying informed, supervising in an interactive way ("What led you to that answer?" "How else could someone answer this question?"), and discussing the work after the child completes it independently. This is an excellent way to demonstrate how schoolwork matters, to share what you know (and what you don't know) about what your child is learning, and to help your child think of new directions and new perspectives on the work. Simply sequestering your child to do the work and playing the role of kindly warden only makes the work seem like a continuation of the school day. Parents should never, ever do the work FOR their children, but they should always know what that work is, and use it as a foundation for exploring new things. In our house, conversations about homework often lead to googling something we want to learn more about, or brainstorming more ways to solve problems. Just yesterday my 2nd grader brought home a worksheet on homophones. It was far too easy for him and he finished in under a minute. So we spent 15 minutes making a list of all the other homophones we could think of - we stopped when he got to "butt" and "but." It was fun, and it gives me a chance to appreciate what he knows and encourage his love of language and learning.
View All Answers

What's your family's favorite recipe for chicken or tofu?

Heather DuBois Bourenane

My kids love tofu and will eat it almost any way - even plain, extra firm tofu cut into cubes. But they like it best marinated in a homemade dressing of soy sauce, orange juice, ginger and garlic, then baked and added to stir-fry with whole wheat udon noodles, lots of veggies, and peanut sauce. I often throw it into fruit and yogurt smoothies for an added protein boost, too.
View All Answers