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Thursday, January 29, 2015

What a Wonderful World: 9 Ways to Foster Respect for Diversity in Your Kids

Photo by Oregon Department of Transportation (Flickr)

Recently, we explored a few different ways to foster gratitude within kids. There is SO much to be grateful for in this big, vibrant world. I've found that thankfulness and appreciation for diversity are key ingredients to a happy, colorful life. How can we create a foundation for these traits in our kids? The first step is to be mindful of our own attitudes towards others. Our kids are always emulating us, so we need to strive to be strong examples of respect.

By encouraging respect for diversity in our children, we are opening so many doors for them. Rather than being intimidated by the world wide mosaic of culture, they will be eager to explore it. They will promote inclusion rather than exclusion, molding friendships that are enriching and unique. They will earn experiences that help shape a solid yet flexible foundation for work and life. They will help build a future that is bright and welcoming to everyone!

Here are nine ways to foster respect for diversity in your children.

  1. Banish Generalizations: A person is a person. Try to establish this as a mantra in your household. This does not mean that every person is trustworthy, only that this assessment should be based on their actions and not a stereotype. We watch movies from across the globe, experiment with a wide array of cuisines, and read books plucked from the global shelf. This celebrates that we are indeed different on some levels, but not in a way that is scary or harmful. It adds more flavor to the hearty stew of life and more colors to the tapestry!
  2. Get Out and Play: By getting out and playing, whether it's at school, the playground, or just around the neighborhood, your children will be able to meet others, interact with them, and learn about their particular lifestyles and cultures. Playtime with others is a natural, wonderful way to open the hearts and minds of our kids; it cultivates community and curiosity.
  3. Always Be Respectful: Respect is key. Communicate to your children that assumptions rarely lead to accurate or helpful conclusions. We're all human beings with our own stories and struggles.
  4. Be Patient With Them: As parents, we know how stressful and difficult to stay patient. In the case of diversity, it is crucial. If your kids question why someone is different, don't assume that they are being rude; they're asking because they're curious. You can transform this into a teachable moment by fielding their question with kindness and earnest.
  5. Confront Intolerance: Silence implies acceptance and can perpetuate bias. If your child makes a prejudice statement, don't stop at simply demanding they never repeat it. Ask them why they said it to uncover the root of the issue. From there, you can explain why it's unacceptable.
  6. Build Empathy: There are many ways to nurture an empathetic spirit in your children. This begins by listening to them and respecting their beliefs so that they extend this courtesy to others. Caring for a pet and volunteering are also fantastic ways to tune the compassionate heartstrings.
  7. Celebrate Progress: Just as we shouldn't hesitate to nib prejudice statements at the bud, we should also jump on the opportunity to praise our children for moments of respect and empathy. My oldest daughter told me about how she made a new friend at school by sitting with a girl who was all by herself due to bullying. I was thrilled and made sure to tell her why it was brave and kind of her to do so.
  8. Family History: Grow blossoms of respect by tending to your own roots! Dive into your family heritage with your kids. It can be such a fun, enlightening experience for the whole family. You can create a family tree, discuss the struggles and triumphs of your lineage, and share with friends.
  9. Be a Role Model: I said this before, but I feel it needs to be said again! At first, our kids perceive the world through us. Our outer voices become their inner voices. Let's strive to respect others, speak a language of peace and understanding, and embrace diversity with our actions and words.

In what ways have you worked to instill respect for diversity within your kids? Let us know what you think of these suggestions, and feel free to offer even more ideas in the comments section below!

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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