The news is booming this week and, unfortunately, it is filled with news of hate. It is a scary thought that there is still such hate in this world AND that there are individuals tolerating this extent of bigotry. I can only wonder and worry – how do I keep my children sheltered and away from all the BAD? My husband and I have talked a lot about that a lot this week. Truth of the matter: we can’t shelter our kids. We can’t let them walk through life with blinders. So, what values can we instill in them to help fend off the bad?
Same but different
My four year old daughter has been noticing differences in people for years. At the age of two, she would notice if boys had ponytails or girls had shaved heads. She would point out these differences in the loudest little voice that existed. In our extreme embarrassment, my husband and I would shove a hand over her mouth and quickly shuffle her away.
But then I saw a particular episode of Daniel Tiger (for real, I learn parenting hacks from Daniel Tiger). In this episode, Daniel meets Prince Wednesday’s cousin, Chrissie, and she uses crutches to get around. The mantra of this episode is, “In some ways we are different, but in so many ways we are the same.” Insert face slap emoji. All this time, I had been hushing my daughter from talking about differences. There isn’t anything wrong with talking about how someone may be different and how those differences make them special. But, we also point out the similarities our kids may have with that person. Believe me, after using this technique with my daughter she would much rather focus on how someone is similar to her.
Stand up for the little guy
This can be a hard one for me because I want my daughters to be safe and not to put themselves in harm’s way. But if there are kids out there who are being taught by their parents or peers to be hateful or mean, how do we stop it? I want them to speak up for what they know is right. So, we are starting on a small scale. For example, when one child gets excluded from a neighborhood bike race, we stop, talk about it, and make sure everyone gets included.
In addition to these real life experiences, I point out if someone is not being kind in books or on television. We look at the faces and talk about how someone is sad and how it would make my daughter feel. I can only hope that these small lessons trickle down and stick with my girls down the road.
Don’t be a hater
I have been seeing the following Nelson Mandela quote a lot this week:
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
It is really that simple. My husband and I will not teach our children to hate. We avoid hateful words. We will not speak ill of others, espeically in front of our children. They will not learn hate from us. The best thing that we can do is lead by example.
My question: How do YOU teach these values? I know that I don’t have a sliver of the answers. I’ve never experienced racism or antisemitism, so I cannot speak from that point of view. These are just methods that have worked for us to help our kids learn compassion. So please tell me… what other methods can I use to teach my children acceptance and kindness towards others?