Have you ever found yourself in a situation, where your child stared and pointed at someone because of their skin colour, their curly hair or a turban; or openly commented on a less than perfect accent? It can be embarrassing and you start wondering why they did that. Do you talk about differences between people at home with your child? How do you yourself approach people, who don’t look exactly like you?
KIDS – A MIRROR OF THEIR SURROUNDINGS
Kids aren’t more tolerant than us. They’re exactly as tolerant as their parents and friends. There is this ongoing conviction that children are blank slates and as a result completely unbiased and tolerant of everyone and everything. And that may be true in the early stages of development. But kids are also extremely fast learners and they parrot their parents’ behaviour – since they are their kids first idols. Simply put, if a role model is nice and tolerant, the child will most likely also be that. If parents, and later peers and school show negative patterns, children have no way of knowing that this may not be the best way to behave.
The way parents, teachers and other figures of authority and respect talk (or not talk, which also has an impact) about ethnicities, but also genders and sexuality gets absorbed by kids and later reflected onto the world.
GOOD AT HEART
Kids React is a Fine Brothers show on YouTube that exposes kids to different things, records their reactions and ask questions related to the topic: from silly videos, crazy food to rather complex social issues (like race, gender and sexuality). Below is a video of them reacting and commenting on a Cheerios commercial from 2013 featuring a mixed couple and their biracial kid. Apparently, when it aired in the USA (in Europe it might not have caused such an uproar) some people loudly complained that it showed such a family. These reactions are however very heartwarming – kids (of different backgrounds and ages) didn’t understand what the commotion was all about and were outraged that such opinions still existed in the modern world.
And that is great to hear and fills us with hope that kids can in fact be incredibly tolerant and are capable of great empathy. As always, a lot depends on their parents and their surroundings. Skin colour or religion is a part of our lives and we can’t just ignore it, but rather we should accept and understand it and not discriminate against people who are not like us.
Do you talk to your kids about tolerance? How do you react when they unintentionally say something bad?