As a parent, you have a huge influence on how your child perceives and reacts to those who are different from themselves. Teaching your children acceptance of such differences and encouraging inclusion in our diverse society is one of the most powerful tools you have in your parenting kit.
This is often the expression of intolerance to difference and diversity, and children learn the power of this type of social rejection very early in their lives. Whether your child is in danger of being a victim or a perpetrator of such exclusion, all parents should take the opportunity with their children to raise awareness of issues such as difference, diversity and inclusive practices.
Is a term to do with learning to live with one another. It involves inviting people who have been left out in some way to “come in”. By welcoming all people into our groups and communities, we create a climate for growth and an opportunity to build a better more humane society. Inclusion means supporting one another. It is about how we tolerate people who look act or think differently from our own definitions of so-called “ordinary “people. The inclusion issue cuts directly to the core of our values and beliefs. It challenges our beliefs about humanity and is about how we deal with difference and diversity. It makes us question and reflect on how we would feel if we were the one left out.
Respect is paramount
Building a society where respect for others’ feelings is paramount means that children need to learn the impact of their actions on others. We find it easier to consider the feelings of people who are similar to us. It is common to fear difference in others and regard it as a threat to ourselves and the way we live. If we regard people who are different to us as inferior to ourselves and our way of life, it becomes easier for us to accept it when bad things happen to them.
Experiences build understanding
However, to create a tolerant society, children need to have experiences that build understanding and respect for diversity. This encompasses embracing differences of many kinds, for example, physical, ethnic, religious, philosophical, behavioural and sexual in both individuals and groups. Indeed, it is important to recognise that we are all made up of individual differences.
Children also need to develop awareness that attitudes and actions towards other people are learned behaviours. This learning comes from our friends, family, teachers and the media. Acknowledging this helps children learn to think critically about the values and beliefs they hold.
Stereotyping leads to prejudice
Stereotyping can be a useful basis on which to make quick evaluations about people as this can help us make sense of our complicated world. Stereotypes represent the way we perceive a particular group of people. However, it is a dangerous practise as it is based on preconceived notions and can result in discriminatory behaviour towards individuals. Stereotypes are most often negative or derogatory, and usually involve an element of judgement that consequently creates a prejudice. When we stereotype people, we tend to only look for instances that confirm what we believe about them and disregard actions that are not consistent with our beliefs. We also tend to limit our contact with those groups so that we never learn what those people are truly like. Prejudice refers to a person’s negative attitudes about others and involves both feelings and patterns of thinking. The stereotypes and prejudice we hold are generally acquired from those around us. Discrimination is how we behave towards people we are prejudiced against.
Inclusion is the antidote
Inclusion welcomes difference and celebrates it as strength, rather than a deficiency. Inclusion acknowledges that everyone has a contribution to make and that we have a responsibility and opportunity to give every person a chance to be included and participate – even if it requires us to design new systems or develop new abilities so that every person can participate in our groups to the fullness of their potential. As parents, we must respect that our children learn and reflect the attitudes we model, but we can work to combat prejudice and minimise stereotyping by raising our children’s awareness about other groups of people and be assured that exposing our children to a diverse range of people will undoubtedly enrich their life experiences.
Ages & Stages
- “How do you feel about that idea, Leah?”
- “We haven’t heard Blake’s feelings
about that yet.”
- “What do you think, Daria?”
- “We could do with more people – care to play too?”
If someone else tries to exclude someone, you can say:
- “Don’t treat her that way, she has a right to be involved.”
- “You don’t have to be friends with her, but it’s not okay to make her feel bad.”
- “You don’t have to like everyone, but you also don’t need to be cruel.”
- “It’s not okay to treat people that way. How do you imagine it feels being told …”
Paula Galey (M Ed Psych,(hons) hHdip Tchg, post grad Dip special needs teaching) is a specialist teacher for students with learning and behaviour difficulties. She currently writes educational resources while raising her three children.