The Monroe Doctrine (or Learning History, Part 2)

Dear Reader,

I promised you the story of why we remember the Monroe Doctrine (see part 1).  This story does not involve violence, thankfully. Though there is some yelling.

A few years back, when we were going through American history, I was going to read a book on President Monroe to my older two children. The younger ones at this point were about 6 and 4 and they would often listen in but I figured they would just pick up what they could and I was too worried about actually teaching them this stuff. We decided to read the book on the couch in the living room so we would be comfortable and the most possible kids could see any pictures. My littlest daughter (yes, her again; she seems to be the center of all these stories) wanted to cuddle up right next to me which she did.

When we got to the part on the Monroe Doctrine I read the text and then stopped to see if the older two had understood it. It seemed like it needed a little more explanation so I compared it to a sandbox. Imagine you are playing in a big sandbox with your friend, I began. You are each doing your own thing but then your friend starts infringing on your space. So you decide it would be best if you each stayed on your own side of the box and didn’t interfere in each other’s business.  (The sides here represent hemispheres and President Monroe wanted the Europeans to stay out of ours. The extension of this that says we can do what we like in the Americas can later.)  So I explained all this and then said (a bit loudly; okay, I yelled), “Get out! You just stay on your side and I will stay on mine!” At which point that little four-year-old who was cuddling up to me looked up at me in shock and horror and burst into tears. Apparently, she hadn’t been listening to much, but when Mommy began to yell she assumed it was directed at her.

So to this day, if I want to remind the kids what the Monroe Doctrine is, I only need to say, “It’s that thing your little sister hates.”

Is there a moral here? Scare your kids and they will remember key principles? Probably not the best idea. How about kids will remember things they form relationships with, even bad relationships.



One response to this post.

  1. […] What makes a living book? I am sure we have all heard the criteria before: books written by one author, books which you (the parent) don’t mind reading again and again (this especially applies to picture books), books which are literary, which tell a  story (biographies are a great choice). But Charlotte tells is best in this section when she tells a story of some girls who turn their gym class into a historical battle between Charles XII of Sweden and Czar Peter (I won’t repeat it all here; go read it for yourself). When kids’ minds have been captured in this way, when they take what they have read and incorporate it into their play, then you know you have hit upon the right sort of books. (For some stories about what my own kids have remembered see this post and this one.) […]


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