The NATO protestors in Chicago are providing a lot of teachable lessons for my tween on dissent and opposition. I think they are giving her a "Here's how not to do it" lesson to my Tween, or at least a "here's how to unsuccessfully oppose your parent, or most authority figures." I recognize that the NATO protestors are not asking their parents for a longer curfew, but if they were hoping to present their viewpoint and have me agree with it, they're falling short. While I recognize that it is a far different scenario, I have high hopes that as my Tween hopes to win me over to her way of thinking, she'll do so wisely. I just hope that she does a better job than the protestors in several areas:
- Have clear messaging. I was on the sidewalk when the NATO protestors marched, or rather, meandered, past on Saturday. Exactly what they protesting was not overly clear. They had a few signs, some about war, foreign policy, the economy, none of them very clear. There was no chanting and that seemed indicative of the fact that they lacked a unified voice, literally or otherwise. My Tween has and certainly will disagree with me on many occasions. I want to hear her perspective, just as I'm open to hearing the point of view of the NATO protestors. I am also open to hearing why I may be wrong and yes, I realize that it is possible. But if she thinks a general "I don't like you or anything you do" message is going to get me to reconsider anything, she's wrong. Very wrong. She may feel that way, but she'll have a far greater chance of success if she picks a specific item, maybe 2, upon which she would like to focus the discussion.
- Support that message with facts. If you don't have a clear message, it is hard to lay out your case in support of that message. I have heard none of that in the coverage of the NATO protests. I have no idea why they think NATO is awful. I think to have sway in public opinion, or parental opinion, it is your job to tell me why you are right and to tell me why I am wrong. Use facts. If my Tween ever hopes to challenge me successfully, and I think that is in fact possible, she needs to have logical support for why she is correct.
- Have a plan. My favorite part of coverage of the protests was a note that the protestors are not from Chicago and did not know where they were marching. Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said, "They actually don't even know where they're going most of the time." Do protestors not have access to maps? You can access Mapquest from the free computer access at libraries around the country. There is no excuse for not having a plan. Know what you're going to do, and I think that's true of pretty much every situation for my Tween, whether she's exercising her Constitutional right to free speech, voicing opposition to me, or going to the grocery store. Aimless meandering is the quickest way to lose my attention. I hope that when she opposes me that she has a plan both for how she's going to approach the situation and also a plan for what happens if she should succeed in winning me over to her point of view.