Raising Them Right

Sage advice for those whose politically radical teenagers are proving to be a nightmare

By James Delingpole

September 23 2019

It’s the moment every parent dreads. “Dad. There’s something I have to tell you. I can’t live a lie any longer. I’m in love with Jeremy Corbyn.” Except, of course, in real life they don’t put it nearly so politely.

Instead, they dump their politics on you as a fait accompli. Everything that you believe is hateful, wrong, embarrassing. Everything they believe is right, true and pure. But it doesn’t have to be this way. I know because somehow, miraculously, I have bucked the trend.

Not one of my three children is a card-carrying leftist. Things may change when the youngest (18) goes to ‘uni’, but I doubt it. It’s possible, that through a mix of hidden genius and pure dumb luck, I have found the magic formula that prevents one’s offspring turning into raging little Trots, thus giving us all hope for the future. Let me share with you my top tips

"Dads: You will never win on feminism. Should you be lucky enough to be blessed with a teenage daughter, there is a 99.99 per cent likelihood that she considers herself a feminist"
"Dads: You will never win on feminism. Should you be lucky enough to be blessed with a teenage daughter, there is a 99.99 per cent likelihood that she considers herself a feminist."

1. Goad them sparingly. One of the few pleasures of having teenage children – perhaps, indeed, the only one – is the joy of teasing them mercilessly about their hygiene, their dietary habits, their untidiness, their lumpen ingratitude, their incomprehensible memes, and their half-baked political insights. Just be mindful that it all goes in the Ledger: the mental list of grievances your children are storing up as justification for embracing the kind of politics most calculated to annoy you.

2.Take the moral high ground. Teenagers aren’t interested in facts: it’s all about ‘muh feelings’. Therefore, do not waste time trying to wear them down with evidence or logic. Socialism is geared towards the emotions, not the intellect, so, tailor your arguments accordingly. On climate change, for example, don’t bother with the science or the economics. Instead, express concern about those poor people driven into fuel poverty by skyrocketing energy prices; about the birds and bats slaughtered by wind turbines; about the poor walruses which weren’t driven to commit suicide over the cliff by ‘climate change’, but were more likely panicked into a fatal stampede by the film crew...

3. Keep it personal. Probably the world’s best hope right now for deradicalising our youth is Charlie Kirk’s charity, Turning Point, which helps students on campus discover their inner conservative. The secret, Kirk has discovered, is framing your argument in the right way. Many students swing left because it’s all they’ve ever been taught. Like the BBC, which luckily hardly anyone under 25 even bothers with any more, their default position is that the government’s job (helped, of course, by its magic money tree) is to make everything better by doing more and more. So ask them, based on their personal experiences with officialdom, how likely they think it will be that contracting out still more work and responsibility to the sclerotic, rude, inefficient, work-shy, stubborn, authoritarian, unsympathetic public sector is going to deliver the new Jerusalem they’ve been promised.

4. Dads: You will never win on feminism. Should you be lucky enough to be blessed with a teenage daughter, there is a 99.99 per cent likelihood that she considers herself a feminist. You should be too, Dad, she’ll girlsplain to you, because feminism just means “believing in equal rights for men and women”. Do not, under any circumstances, try to debate with her on this one. Like the use of hair straighteners, this is one of those girl issues that you will never win. The debate is over. We boys have lost. Accept this and concentrate your forces on taking territory that it is still possible to conquer

5. Don’t send them to Eton (or Winchester, or Westminster). One of the disappointments with public schools these days is how oppressively woke they are. Not even Eton is safe. Indeed, it’s probably one of the worst offenders because it trains its pupils in the chameleon skills needed to accommodate the fashionable idiocies of the day, like identity politics, ‘sustainability’ and other such nonsense. If you still want to risk it – as I did, for the tailcoat and the connections and the troll points – there’s always the possibility that your boy will turn into a maverick, contra mundum Orwell rather than another identikit lefty like Shelley. Otherwise, I’d recommend somewhere more provincial like my alma mater, Malvern. Yes, like all such schools it has its share of lefty teachers. But the largely conservative pupils – coming on the whole from solid shires backgrounds – tend to see it as their job to make these teachers’ lives misery rather than to imbibe their dodgy politics.

6. Move to the country. If you want your child to grow up believing that men too can have periods or that white people (“wypipo” as they’d probably pronounce it, in a Sarf London grime accent) need to check their privilege, then stay living in London. If not, get out of town, sharpish. Do not, under any circumstances, delude yourself that moving to Brighton, Bristol or Bath constitutes ‘getting out of town’.

7. Lead by example. Show, not tell! Raise your children – in an Old Rectory, ideally – in a quintessentially conservative environment. Take them to church; go on long family walks; make sure that they can ride, shoot, ski, sail, double spey cast; eat plenty of red meat, cooked rare; watch Where Eagles Dare and Zulu; play board games, literary games; ensure that some of their best holiday memories involve wild swimming in the Wye, surfing at Bantham, drizzly picnics in the Highlands heather (for to be born British is, of course, to have won life’s lottery); make them write thank-you letters. Yes, they may still go through a Corbynista phase, but every fibre of their being will shriek at the cognitive dissonance of it all and sooner or later upbringing will out and normal service resume.

8. Splash the cash. This may seem counterintuitive. Surely there is no greater incentive to a life of feckless socialism than the cushion of being bankrolled by Daddy? Yes, indeed. But parental largesse serves two key purposes. First, as the last enduring element of influence you have over your offspring (to be withdrawn only in extremis); secondly to reinforce in their silly, idealistic little heads the fundamental notion that abundance and freedom of choice are things that conservatives value but which socialists just want to steal away from you.

9. Chill. Obviously don’t try to be ‘down wiv da kidz’ – they’ll only mock. But it does help, in my experience, if you don’t give them too much to rebel against. On sex, drugs and rock’n’roll, for example, be understanding rather than disapproving. Keep the lines of communication open so that they feel comfortable talking to you about stuff. This has the added bonus that all their friends will tell them how amazingly relaxed and cool their Dad is, thus bolstering your authority.

10. Be patient. Despite all I’ve said, the main reason my kids didn’t turn out left wing is because I got lucky. If you’re not so fortunate, don’t despair – almost all the young go through a socialist phase. Happily most of them grow out of it when their first tax bill arrives; and if not, then when they see how rubbish the local school is and realise they’re going to have to go private. “Er, Dad. There’s something I need to ask you...”