Quick guide to explaining left and right wings to kids

Today, you might hear people – both in the media and in the real world – the terms “left wing” and “right wing” being tossed around. However, they’re actually used as symbolic labels. In other words, “left” is symbolic for liberals, and “right” is that for conservatives. 

But how can you explain that to your kids?

Well, first, a little background: The terms “left” and “right” were originally coined in reference to the physical seating arrangements of the politicians during the French Revolution.

How “Left” And “Right” Came To Be

“The terms ‘left’ and ‘right’ were first defined in the summer of 1789,” says Amelia Peters, a writer at Writinity and Researchpapersuk. “At the time, members of the French National Assembly were drafting a constitution, but all the delegates were deeply divided over how much authority King Louis XVI should have. This eventually led them to splitting themselves into two different factions. While the anti-royalist revolutionaries seated themselves to the presiding officer’s left, the more conservative and aristocratic supporters of the monarchy sat at the right.”

A similar situation happened when the Bourbon Restoration and a constitutional monarchy manifested in 1814. Once again, liberals and conservatives took up their respective posts on the left and right of the legislative chamber. Thus, today, politicians either identify as one of the following:

  • Left, or Far Left
  • Right, or Far Right

Left Wing

The Left, or the Progressives and liberals, believe that society is best served with an expanded role for the government – which is called by many as “big government.” In other words, they believe that the poor man should receive incentives from the government that can help them throughout their lives, while having the rich man pay for these incentives through taxes.

Right Wing

The Right, or the conservatives, believe that what’s best for society is to let individuals determine their destiny without interference from the government. So, when individual rights and civil liberties are paramount, the government is kept minimized. And, instead of having people rely on the government for aid (i.e. financial), the Right favors market-based solutions that will not only put people to work, but they can also earn a lot more than money – skills, experience, etc.

What Issues Should Kids Really Know?

“Sometimes, it can be very difficult to talk to your children about certain issues that might be going on in the country,” says Richard Jenson, a blogger at DraftBeyond and LastMinuteWriting. “Therefore, talk about the small stuff, or the things that you can easily explain to a child. In other words, talking about gay rights or abortion would be too big a subject for them.”

So, assuming that they’re unable to understand most of today’s issues, here are some that you can talk about to your children, and where the left and the right stand on such issues:

  • Education – The Left wants an expansion of free, public education. Whereas, the Right wants there to be more than just public schools; in fact, they believe that parents should choose which school to send their kids to, not the government.
  • Progressive v. Conservatism – The Left are progressives, meaning that they’re always open to social reform or change. The Right, on the other hand, want to stick to traditional values, and not let anyone or anything take it away from them.
  • Immigration – The Left wants to grant citizenship to undocumented immigrants, for they see potential in them. The Right wants to hold off on granting amnesty to people who come into the country illegally; and they hold true to the belief that undocumented immigrants are taking jobs, benefits, etc. away from the American people.
  • Government v. Individual Liberty – The Left wants government control, where constant aid (i.e. financial) will be given to the lower class, raise taxes on the wealthy, and businesses follow regulations. Whereas, the Right believes that government should play a limited role on people’s lives; and, with lower taxes on businesses, they can grow and help run the economy smoothly.


As you keep this guide in mind, just remember that you’re not expecting your child to fully understand the Left and the Right, and then pick a side. If they happen to ask about the two, then feel free to explain them in simple terms. Although they can be touchy subjects for those with kids, there’s nothing wrong with them asking about them.


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