Raising tolerant, inclusive children
29 September 2018 FAMILY
By: Natasha Archary
Parenting in the current global political climate is overwhelming. In an ideal world, the colour of one’s skin would not be a factor. It feels like we’re destined to be prisoners to racism.
It’s natural to want to protect your children from any form of prejudice and harm in general. Raising children with the same fears your parents had about race is not going to break the cycle of indifference.
Raise them to be tolerant
Children aren’t born hating. It’s something they learn from the adults who care for them. Without giving the racist rants of Adam Catzavelos more publicity, one couldn’t help but wonder about dinner table conversations amongst his family.
Did he spend family meals ranting the way he did in that video? Is that what his children were privy to at home? Was this the conditioning they were subject to?
With the recent spate of school violence in the country, the general consensus from the public is that a strong foundation begins at home. Everything you are, so your children become. They learn not from your words of advice but through your actions.
According to Allison Briscoe-Smith, Ph.D, a professor of psychology at Palo Alto University, children, by the age of three, prefer to play with peers of their own race. Her research found that kids’ views only become prejudiced when they start linking physical traits to flaws in character. This happens when adults ascribe malice by noticing racial differences.
Remarking on race doesn’t seem to be the only problem in the matter. Silence is more damaging. Parents who don’t talk about race and difference enough because they want to avoid painful discussions are causing more internal conflicts with kids on race.
Research shows that white parents often remain mum on race issues with their kids for fear of saying something offensive. This is in turn leads to a misguided censorship where kids think race is a loaded subject and grow up fostering ill thoughts about other races.
When is the right age to talk about tolerance?
You will be surprised at the intellectual depth a three-year-old exudes. It’s never too early to start a conversation with your child about the world, the people who live in it and why we’re all so different and yet connected.
It’s not just about having these discussions,;when you do, it’s important to have respect and understanding around this sensitive topic too. Children learn by example and when you flinch if someone of a different race touches you, your child will reflect that modelling.
These character traits are not going to happen overnight. It’s something that as parents we will need to nourish and instill in our children daily. With so much pain and history around racial injustices in the country, many are not open to change. Embracing each other regardless of our differences. Raising children to be racially inclusive is not going to be easy with the current sentiment around race issues in South Africa but we have to try.
For the sake of the children.