Rather than discussing civil rights and famous African Americans which children will be learning in school for Black History Month, we would like to honor Black History Month as a time for nannies and au pairs to teach children to resist bias and prejudice and embrace differences in others.
We started talking about teaching children to respect differences on Sunday. Today we want nannies and au pairs to teach their charges to never tease or insult other people (especially due to race, gender, or ethnicity).
If you want to nip prejudice in the bud, don't let the children you care for ever insult, tease, or reject another person because of race, gender, or ethnicity. Make it a rule -- one that you, of course, observe as well — that you cannot tease, insult, or reject other people for who they are. Attacks on another person's identity simply cannot be allowed.
If you do hear a child tease or insult someone because of their gender or race (or if you hear another child teasing or insulting your charge), step in immediately. Remaining silent will only give the child permission to repeat it and to go on hurting others. Just as you would if your charge had physically hurt another child, comfort and reassure the injured child first. While doing so, make sure your charge knows that you disapprove of what he did. You may choose to discipline such bias attacks just the way you would discipline violence or physical attacks.
At the same time try to find out what underlies the insult. Chances are it didn't come out of the blue. If another problem, like having trouble sharing or difficulty taking turns, underlies the slur, then teach the child to address the problem directly, rather than attacking the person's race or gender. Help your charge see that the other child's gender or skin color or ethnic background has nothing to do with the sharing problem.
If fear of people who are different is an underlying factor, then you'll need to do some activities that will increase the child's opportunity to interact with other children who are racially or culturally different.
Stop by next Sunday when we will provide you with some activities to help children accept cultural, race, gender, and ethnic differences.
Tomorrow from Be the Best Nanny Newsletter: Talking to Children About Stereotypes