Wouldn’t it be nice if raising/educating children was mostly about the straight-forward stuff? Potty training, sleep schedules, even the “3 Rs” are not easy, but they have clear goals. What trips me up most about being a Mom-to-a-toddler (and was true when I taught 3 year olds) is the “hidden curriculum.”
That is the stuff that isn’t written on a lesson plan, but is almost more critical. Helping them learn to engage with peers, interact with adults, stand up and be true to themselves, find and engage in their passions (responsibly).
Moving a step beyond that and you have the skills that you have to lay groundwork for now, but won’t be “finished” well….ever. I’ve talked about teaching respect to a toddler, that is a big one, but there are others that I feel even less prepared for.
Teaching children about race, racism and respect for others is a constant that needs to begin early. It is a myth that children don’t “see” race when they are little. Children begin sorting and classifying their world as babies and show racial preference at a young age. Parents should “step in” and lay groundwork for tolerance at a young age, because children will form their own opinions.
As a white Mom, raising a white son in a neighborhood that is not incredibly diverse, I feel unprepared for this topic. However, there seem to be a lot of resources to guide me. The book “Nurture Shock,” various educator resources on anti-bias classrooms and articles with strategies for raising children who are racially conscious and teaching tolerance. There is even an entire exhibit that looks at the concept of race and what it means culturally and biologically. I’m not “ready” for these lessons yet, but I feel like I have the tools I need.
No, where I really get stuck is on raising a child who is aware of socio-economic differences. Sure, I will get him involved in volunteering (even at 2 he loves “helping”) and learning to take care of others is a key part. However, that just teaches him that he is in a position to help others.
Just like you wouldn’t want to teach a child that “insert name of minority group” needs you to “save” them, you don’t want a child to only think of interacting with others in terms of “helping.” What I want to know is how do I really help him learn that people…are people…no matter what their economic status is.
This is a topic that I haven’t found any helpful guides on and am drawing a blank when thinking on my own. Maybe there are some helpful voices on the internet that can point me in the right direction?
Teaching by example is key. Do you, as the parent or teacher, show respect for the job someone does not just for those who do “high powered” jobs? Do you teach the children in your care to both give and accept help? These are simple ideas but they are powerful examples that teach children the value of each person that is earned through individual effort.
Knowing others in all conditions of life is the best way to break down barriers. That way you will both find the humanity of people in all walks of life. We all have hopes and dreams, we all have perspectives to share, and the need to connect to one another. Someplaces in life are places where different group intersect, ie on the Metro, on a playground, for older students in gym class. Seek out safe places where you can interact ( maybe volunteering at a soup kitchen) and learn that the “other” is a real human being. I love how you probe deeper and are learning with your son all the time.
This is the way we learn and grow.
Thank you so much for the thoughtful comments! I really appreciate them.
Books would be a good way of teaching.. I heard of a book talked about on NPR: “Last Stop on Market Street, is a new picture book that takes children on a journey, not to an imaginary land far, far away but to a much more real place by way of a city bus. CJ is riding with his grandmother, Nana, and along the way, he encounters a variety of passengers — a man covered in tattoos, an elderly woman with a jar of butterflies, a blind man and his guide dog, teens listening to music.” The book is by Matt De La Pena. I would get it for my grandchildren, but they are not quite old enough.