I avoided this subject long enough. As I watch the two presidential candidates during the election, I can’t imagine many parents wanting their children to grow up and emulate either of them.

Throughout their very public lives, both candidates have exhibited habitual and well-documented dishonesty, anger, vindictiveness, pettiness, and hypocrisy.

Both candidates are poster-children for pretty much every behavior parents do their best to prevent. The absolute antithesis of being emotionally intelligent.

With the ubiquity of social media, parents should be concerned about the amount of exposure their children get in this election cycle. Encouraging children to learn and participate in the great democratic process is one thing, watching two people set incredibly poor examples is another thing entirely.

Consider how children learn to model behaviors. Albert Bandura’s Social Learning Theory suggests that people learn from one another by observation, by imitation, and in this very frightening case, by modeling. Bandura’s Social Learning Theory has been called a bridge between behaviorist, an approach to understanding human and animal behavior, and cognitive learning theories because it incorporates attention, memory, and motivation.

In a generation driven by Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and 24-hour news channels, it’s impossible to avoid the acerbic and bombastic ranting, and sophomoric behavior by our candidates, so it will require active parenting and some real attention and participation in this specific process.

How can we use Bandura’s theory to manage this process, and make sure our kids are held to higher standard? Let’s consider the necessary conditions for effective modeling:

Attention — Parents can influence the various factors to increase or decrease the amount of attention paid to the caustic behaviors, by leading a conversation about the issues that impact the country and not the self-serving interests that motivate the two candidates.
Retention — We can help our children remember what they learned with our guidance and suggestion. The model includes symbolic coding, mental images, cognitive organization, symbolic rehearsal, motor rehearsal. Parents can guide this process respectfully.
Reproduction — Reproducing the image, ideally a positive image, and not the nasty representation we are exposed to time and time again.
Motivation — Give your teenager a good reason to imitate good behavior. It’s more difficult in this situation, because one of these two candidates will be rewarded with the most powerful seat in the world, despite their behavior and poor example.

Summary

Coming soon to a great nation, possibly the most emotionally un-intelligent President in the history of this country. Maybe we can use the next President as an example of how not to behave or treat others.

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