Preventing Prejudice in Children By Valuing Differences
The terrific graphic to the left is from the Waterloo Public Library, 451 Commercial St., Waterloo, IA 50701
The article content below can be found at familyeducation.com.
February is Black History Month. The children will be learning about famous African Americans and civil rights in school. But, this week, we would like to honor Black History Month by discussing how nannies and au pairs can help raise children that appreciate differences and resist bias and prejudice.
As much as we would like to be a color-blind, a gender-blind, and an age-blind society, we aren't. So don't ignore the issues of racism and sexism (and ageism and other prejudices) just because they make you uncomfortable.
Children learn their attitudes from us -- the adults around them. Caregivers are essential in helping children to resist biases and prejudice. You can begin to battle the influence of bias in our culture by teaching the children in your care to value differences. One way to start is by encouraging the children to appreciate their own uniqueness. You can introduce children to the notion of differences by starting with their own family. Then you can compare your own family to your charge's family.
1. Do different members of their family have different color hair (black, brown, blond, red, gray, white)?
2. Do they have different textures of hair (curly, straight, thick, wispy, bald)?
3. Do they have different color eyes (brown, blue, hazel)?
4. Are there differences between your family and your charge’s family?
Acknowledging and valuing the diverse physical traits within their own family (or their family and your family) can help children appreciate diversity.
In teaching a child respect and tolerance for different people, start with concepts they'll understand. African American? Latino? No. Toddlers do not understand these adult labels. Instead, start by talking about gender and skin color — the real color: not black and white, but brown, tan, beige, and pink. Then you can talk about the shape of eyes, the color and texture of hair, and other obvious differences.
How is the child special? She's two-years old. She has a particular hair color, eye color, and skin color. Her ancestors have a specific cultural heritage. Sharing stories of people — family members, historical figures, or contemporary role models — from her ethnic group of whom you feel proud can also build an appreciation of your child's cultural heritage. The child also has a distinctive name, which may reflect some family history or cultural background.
Defining the ways in which the child is unique or special is a great way to encourage her to value differences because toddlers love talking and learning about themselves. By talking in a positive way about the toddler's physical characteristics and cultural heritage, you will help her build a positive sense of self. And if she learns to value what makes her different from others, your toddler will be more open to the notion of appreciating the differences of others as well.
Tomorrow: President's Day
Tuesday: Respecting Differences for Black History Month by Be the Best Nanny Newsletter