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Party Training

We indoctrinate our children, intentionally or not, with our political beliefs.

At this point in their tween lives, my kids know where I stand on guns, the economy, women's reproductive rights, gay marriage, health care, school choice, the role of government, race, voting regulations and food stamps.

I try to be careful to explain my view and why others feel differently so they get the big picture, but it doesn't take a child genius to figure out that Mama is a liberal Democrat and lately she's been getting very hot under her pink collar.

So when my 13-year-old daughter told me that her homework assignment was to watch Mitt Romney's speech at the Republican National Convention, I surprised everyone by announcing that we should sit down as a family and hear the man out.

I was mortified – not by his words, but by my other daughter's rude reaction to them.

The eye-rolling. The sarcasm. The insults.

That was my voice coming out of her 12-year-old mouth.

Politics has always had a mean streak, but this year it seems to have gone totally toxic. People are spitting angry. The shock jocks, comedians, political commentators, talking heads and Internet memes have worked us into a frenzy of scorched earth, intolerant, take-no-prisoners venom.

We're polarized. We're as uncompromising as Congress. And we've become pretty ugly examples for our children.

That night on the couch was the first time I allowed myself to hear the other candidate's unfiltered words, without interruption, innuendo or indignation. It didn't change my opinion, but it reminded me that, along with the right to vote and our political leanings, we need to pass down to our kids the rules of civil discourse.

No name calling. No attacking the other person. No cheap shots. Being passionate about something doesn't mean you have to be hostile or confrontational. Stick to the issues and stay respectful. Don't assume the other side is stupid because they disagree with you.

How do you change a political climate that threatens to rip our country apart beyond repair? One homework assignment at a time.