Parents, Let’s Raise Children Who Can Change the World
So many questions over the last few days. How can we do better? How do we make things different for our children?
Children are not born harboring prejudice or knowing how to bully or how to hurt another physically or emotionally. These are behaviors that are unfortunately learned. About age 2, children will start to notice differences. Children will innocently ask “Why does he have brown skin?” “Why can’t she walk?” “Why does her hair look funny?” Questions like these can result in a parent shushing their child, saying that is not a nice thing to say and never talking about the questions.
The preschool years are a wonderful time to talk with your child about differences that often divide people…skin color, gender, physical challenges, culture, and religious beliefs. This is the perfect time to have true impact on your child’s understanding of what is different and what is similar in all human beings. The way you answer these very honest observations and questions your child has will provide the basis for your child’s decisions, behaviors, and development of core beliefs about people. Children learn…who YOU think is beautiful, who YOU think is smart, who YOU think is good, who YOU thing is bad, who YOU think is strong, who YOU think is weak, who YOU think is scary and who YOU think is not. Your response to your child’s natural curiousity about what is different will result in your child’s development in judgement of others.
Your child learns by what they hear, see and even perceive in your behavior. Children’s questions are not impolite, they are moments of learning opportunities. We must learn how to counter-act the everyday influences on your child that result in prejudice and bias. Parents must answer children with real-life age appropriate honesty.
- Don’t deny differences. Discuss differences openly. Be diverse in the books you read, the videos you watch. Choose wisely so that children see many different people in many different roles.
- Don’t ignore your child’s questions or become upset. Children are curious without any intent to be cruel; they are simply observing and then questioning. If you react embarrassed or don’t respond, you send the message that different is negative.
- Be proud of your family heritage and our country. Teach your child about their family history and our country’s history, celebrate different cultures, talk about leaders from all races, genders, and ethnicities. Embrace the diversity around them.
- Expand your child’s circle. Be sure that your child has the benefit of knowing people of different backgrounds, cultures and experiences. This allows your child to see how similar we of the human race are….not how different.
- Empower your child to do what is right. Root your child in moral values. By age 3 children begin to learn about empathy and feelings. By age 7 children know what is right and what is wrong. Embrace the opportunity to speak to your child about how they impact those around them, how they can make a person feel with a simple word or action.
We as parents have the ability to change the world by raising our children in a way that embraces the very differences that currently divide us.
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.
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