In our world right now, we have access to all sorts of information stored right at our fingertips. There is a lot going on. We have marriage equality. We’re dealing with ISIS. Celebrities are coming out as transgendered. A whirlwind presidential election is happening, with record setting media coverage, and holy crap – grown men picking on each other and millions of adults egging them on. With everything that’s happening, how can we raise children who see people for what they are – people? Here are some steps I have taken to not raise a bigot.
Talk to them
Don’t wait around until they ask you why the neighbor kid has two Dads. The earlier you explain that people love who they love, the less likely they’ll embarrass you (loudly) by asking about it when they see a gay couple at the grocery store. It’s not about whether you agree with marriage equality, it’s about making something easier for your child to understand. This is the world we live in, and it is our job as parents to prepare our children for things life throws at them. Don’t leave them unprepared.
Tell the truth
Here’s the thing: I know it’s hard to talk to children about things like the Black Lives Matter movement, or what is happening in Europe – but we have to. Those are both very huge things happening today, than can certainly cause conflicting feelings. I would rather my child hear the truth from me than hear something incorrect or racist at school, or see something worse on the internet or television. Tell them the facts, in a way they can understand. I’m not saying you should tell your children about public beheadings, but letting them know about the conflict is important. Use your judgement and explain it in an age appropriate way they can understand.
Children deserve more credit. They see the TV. They hear the radio. I don’t want my kid to be scared of the Muslim kid in their class, or feel like they’ve done something wrong because of the color of their skin or the way they pray. No child should have to feel that way, no matter what their race or religion.
Lead by example. If you show respect for their taste, even in regards to something like music, or clothes, they will be more likely to respect their peers in the choices they make. Even if you CAN’T STAND Justin Beiber (except that one song…we all love that one song), maybe listen to it a little bit without complaining. I know it’s weird to think that something so small can make that big of a difference, but it does. Showing them that they deserve respect will teach them that others also deserve respect.
Don’t be a bigot yourself
Watch your words. With the election looming, it’s easy to get heated and angry about the issues facing our country. And they ARE big issues…so it’s understandable! Sometimes we say things we don’t mean in the heat of the moment. Remember who is listening. Don’t say anything you wouldn’t want them to repeat to their friends. We are our children’s biggest role model’s, and they look to us as an example. Be the person you want your child to emulate.
Everyone remembers watching the World Trade Centers coming down. I was in school, watching it on TV in my Science class when they collapsed. My Dad was across the country at the time on business, and I remember being petrified that he wouldn’t be able to come home. None of the teachers would explain to us what was happening, and that was a scary.
Our kids are eventually going to find out that the world can be scary sometimes. Don’t wait until they hear it from someone else, or when they’re stuck at school watching it on National TV. The unknown breeds fear. Fear breeds hate, and I think we can all agree that there is enough of that in the world.
What are your tips for raising children to be kind and understanding adults? Let us know in the comments!