Children are like sponges. They take in our words,our actions, and our habits. The could be a huge problem at times as we adults sometimes do things our children should not. Have you ever been rude back to a rude cashier? Have you ever treated the person cleaning tables at a restaurant badly? Have you ever made a comment that puts down another race in general? Our children see this. If they see it enough, it becomes normal, ordinary behavior. Are we at fault for our children’s rudeness? Often times, yes…
Children have few if any preconceived notions. This is a great opportunity for us as parents and the rest of society. What do you tell you children when they see someone with a handicap, are of a different ethnic background, or have an obviously different religion? Do you tell you children that those people are no different than you and me? How do children make sense of that statement?
Children are not dumb. If you tell a child that a handicap person is the same as you and me, they will think you are nuts. They will take what you are saying and try to make use of it as best way they can, but a unless you are handicap also (and in the same way), that handicap person is most likely NOT like you and me. But that’s OK.
Without any preconceived ideas, visual differences are obvious. A child can easily see their friend with a different skin color is not just like them. A child can see another friend worships in a way that is strange to him or her. Instead of telling a child that everyone is the same (when they obviously aren’t), maybe we need to be telling them that is it OK to be different.
Being different is OK
Our kids know that it is ok to be different until we teach them otherwise. It is our duty as parents and members of this society to teach our future generations that yes, there are people out in the world that look, talk, and think different than you and no, they are not just like you (no matter what you have been told), and to rejoice is the differences. Different is not bad.
We teach our children to fit in with their peers. They go to school. Many graduate from college. They will eventually find a job. Do you want them to fit in then? When they are competing for a job, do you want them to be just like all the other job seekers?
I want my children to stand out and be head and shoulders better than the rest. I want my children to be so remarkable that companies all over the country and world are vying for their attention. I want my children to utilize their unique skills and passions to make a difference in the world and create greatness. If they are like everyone else, none of that will happen.
So, is that handicap person just like my child? No, they are not. Does my child know it? Yes, even without me telling them. Do my children know that handicap person is special, important, and valuable? Yes. I hope and pray that my children realize the differences they see do not translate into good and bad, just different. I can guide their progress and reinforce acceptance, but the only way I can be sure they are listening and paying attention is to do those things myself. It is my responsibility to be the role model for my children to show them the proper way to treat others.
Think about your behavior; are you being the role model you should be?
(image credit Phaitoon)