2 articles Tag acceptance

Encouraging Acceptance of Others

Acceptance

Acceptance of others is something that is SO important to Husband and I and is firmly at the core of how we parent the girls. We encourage them to see past colour, creed, ability and everything else that makes people different, so when VTech asked us to share this info, I was more than happy to do so:

Children are being brought up in increasingly multi-cultural societies. The globalisation of family life means that, more than any other time, children are being exposed to people from different countries, cultures, religions, ethnicities and abilities. Helping your child to tolerate and accept difference is an important part of parenting in the 21st century.

While children thrive on novelty (they love to play with new toys, see new things, go to new places) they also learn a great deal from the comfort and predictability of familiarity. Children are far more open minded than adults (they’ve had less time to learn bad habits!) so it is important that we help our children to understand difference while their brains are still malleable enough to take in new information.

Pre-school children learn through watching and imitating. They will repeat what they have heard from home and will adopt their parents views very quickly. That’s why it is so important that parents act in the way they would like their child to. If you are a tolerant, curious and open minded person then your child is more likely to be too. Pre-school children are full of “why?” questions. Often these questions will be about why someone looks different or does something different. Answer these questions honestly and if you don’t know the answer or you’re a bit flummoxed then it’s absolutely fine to say “you know what, I don’t know. I’ll have a think about it and then we can chat about it more, later on this afternoon”.

Being the same as someone is comforting to a little child. Help your child to understand that although someone might look different, talk differently, dress differently or just do things differently, there are still a lot of similarities. Encourage your child to spend time with a wide variety of people so that they can build up their confidence. Children can also learn about difference by playing with a variety of toys. The VTech Toot-Toot friends for example are a mix of boys and girls, all of whom have different strengths. While playing with all of these characters, children learn what it feels like to be each one and empathise with them. Children will then transfer this experience into their day to day interactions with others.

As children’s brains grow, they become more aware that others can have different views and ideas about things and this can be quite frightening for a child. Most children will naturally steer their way through these feelings by experiencing situations where they learn to negotiate, take turns, compromise and communicate. All of these skills are essential for forming friendships throughout life and they also contribute to a child’s sense of belief in themselves and their abilities.

Children have a strong need to fit in, to be a part of a peer group and to be accepted. This need increases throughout childhood and reaches its peak in adolescence. When they are young, children try to fit in by being like other children- they may want to dress like them, talk like them or do the same things as them. As a parent you need to acknowledge this need to be like others in order to fit in, but also help your child to understand that they are loved and accepted for who they are, as someone unique. Use story books or TV programmes to start conversations with your child about differences and similarities and how it is important to accept yourself. Embrace your child’s individuality – just because you think pink spots and red stripes don’t go together, it doesn’t mean your child does. Let them explore and experiment – then they will grow up to be more in tune and more accepting of who they really are.

Angharad Rudkin has teamed up with VTech to support the launch of its new fun and interactive range, Toot-Toot Friends. For more information please visit www.vtech.co.uk

Teaching Kids to Have a Social Conscience

Yesterday evening, after Sausage had got her pyjamas on and cleaned her teeth, we snuggled on the sofa for her to doze off while Husband and I watched a re-run of Hairy Bikers, the one where they travelled around Bavaria, baking and doing all the usual stuff that the Hairy Bikers do. During the show we were talking about how much we’d love to take Sausage to Munich;  Husband’s been before and I’ve wanted to go for a while, and Sausage suddenly piped up and said “Yeah, I also want to go to Russia!”.  Husband and I immediately explained that, unless Russia changed their laws and opinions regarding homosexuality, then we’d never be going to Russia.

For us, teaching Sausage about what’s going on in Russia and explaining the situation is second nature. I’ve blogged before about our ‘no bullshit’ policy when it comes to her, and this is just an extension of that, but it did get me wondering how many other 5 year olds are being raised to have a social conscience .

As far as we’re concerned, if Sausage is old enough to question something, then it’s our responsibility as parents to explain things to her in a way she can understand. It would be so easy for us to just gloss over everything and let her come upon this information as she gets older, but it should be an intrinsic part of parenting to step up to the mark on issues like this.

We do our best to teach her love and tolerance in the hope that instilling these values from a young age will make them second nature, rather than something that has to be learned later in life. More than anything, I feel that teaching tolerance will make her life easier in the long run, she won’t spend her time questioning why people are the way they are, she’ll simply accept difference without even knowing she’s accepting anything.

Sometimes, when Sausage plays with her Barbies, she’ll pair them up with her action man and they’ll be ‘boyfriend and girlfriend’ in her game, but in the last year or so, she’s also started pairing Barbies up with each other and having them be ‘girlfriend and girlfriend’. I couldn’t be more proud of her for being able to open her mind more than many full-grown adults are able to and her willingness to embrace diversity is what I hope will help her to lead a fulfilled and happy life.

So, what of children who are raised by parents who fear and oppose difference? I’m not saying that I was raised in a household of peace and love as a child, I remember hearing things which go firmly against what I believe now, so I do have hope that it’s not an ever decreasing circle of prejudice as those children emerge into adulthood, but I also think that parents should be doing more to instil tolerance as a key value in their children. And further to tolerance should be teaching our kids to stand by their morals and saying ‘NO’ to countries like Russia.

Having said that, I’ve also had others question my parenting in the past and suggest that Sausage doesn’t need to know anything about homosexuality, which I found ridiculous. What do you think? Do you skirt around issues rather than explaining them? Do you ‘protect’ your child from the realities of the world, favouring the ‘they can learn when they’re older’ approach? Leave me a comment below.

And if you find it difficult to get your head around the idea of tolerance, watch this clip. The story about Winston Churchill absolutely warmed my cockles and made me very proud to be British!