We are not born with hate in our hearts and minds. We aren’t even born realizing differences in each other. Those unique variances that signify a different ancestry, culture, and world view come later in life, and not from within our young minds. Rather, we are shaped by what we observe—by what is taught.
When my daughter told me one day that it was the “black one” that she was talking about, I was taken aback if only for a moment. My “what?” towards my four-year-old died on my lips when she followed up with, “the one over there in the black shirt.” She wasn’t talking about a race or skin color. That ideawasn’t something she considered in the explanation of who she was talking about; instead, it was merely the color of the shirt the other child was wearing.
That interaction says a lot about our youth and a lot about us as adults. Not only do our children not see race or gender as much as adults, but we are all super-sensitized to offending someone, or even an entire race or religious group. This hyper-sensitization seems to create an even deeper divide, makes our interactions more clunky, and increases stress and fear. And our kids sense all of these emotions. We aren’t hiding and sheltering them as much as we hope to, perhaps even making it more of a spotlight by even trying to do so.
What Defines Us?
What we need to try to do, as hard as it may seem right now when our stress levels are the highest the American Psychological Association (APA) has seen in years, is to relax around each other. Be kind to each other and helpful, not chronically apologetic and not on edge for fear of being offended or offensive, that isn’t teaching or showing tolerance or celebrating diversity. It’s called being overly politically correct.
But when did politics begin to shape each of us? Define us? Didn’t we enjoy each other’s company as young children when voting, religion, or culture didn’t mean anything? Weren’t we playing with each other on the playground? Telling each other,we like their curly, short, long, or straight hair or the colorful mix-matched patterns of their clothes or the beautiful shade of their skin? Well, maybe not everywhere. There are many parts of the world where the vast diversity is only read about or seen on TV, so our children don’t view diversity due to mere geography, or, perhaps, by choice of the adults who provide and care for them.
Teaching Tolerance & Kindness
If we choose to shelter our children, perhaps due to fear of the unknown or fear of what we see plastered on social media, the news, and in the papers, what are we doing to our world? To the human race? When did we decide, back in ancient times, that just because someone was different looking than us or believed something different that we would treat them differently? That they were somehow less than us or we were less than them? And since it is back in time, before our time, that this type of segregation and fear came to be, why do we have to cling to it? Haven’t we changed—evolved even—with time, experience, and knowledge?
Don’t we owe it to the fate of the world, to our happiness, to the safety of our children, both their physical and mental safety, to be kinder, friendlier and more open-minded? Extending a hand, saying thank you, holding a door, and giving a smile are all small gestures that our children will see and consume with all of their beings. When we express this kindness to everyone, regardless of what the media, our history, or our possible teachings through generations have taught us, we will see a shift. We need a transformation. A shift away from fear and intolerance of those who may look, act or believe something different to one of acceptance, tolerance, respect, and love.
How Can We Transform?
Maybe we forgot that we need to teach these essential parts of character education. It isn’t our fault. We live in this faster-paced, intense, and high-tech level of society where the majority of parents are working full-time jobs, so we rely more heavily on schools and daycares. But are they equipped to handle the full-time responsibility of teaching kindness, friendship, and celebrating diversity? They are also in that fast-paced, test-driven, walking-on-glass society we have spinning around us. So, what can we do? We can take some moments to show the cashier a smile, even for a split second while our little ones pull at our skirt or those text message bings demanding our attention. We can offer a hand to someone in need or give a compliment.
We can also read books that celebrate diversity, teach about friendship and kindness, or role-play situations that may occur on the playground, ball field, or classroom. I truly believe these little things, these small displays of kindness can deflate the bubble of stress, and our kids will watch, learn, and bring about the catalyst for change.
We are taught by our families that we can’t always have, can’t always get, what we want (or maybe that was just The Rolling Stones), so why do we think we can force others to be who we want them to be, to believe as we believe, to look as we look? We can’t. That’s not how we were made for this world. Though there are a variety of beliefs of how we came to be, we can all agree that we were brought here for a reason and that it must be for something good and true. Which means so was everyone else, so let’s embrace them as we hope we are welcome in the world we share.
For a wonderful activity on helping your child learn more about kindness, mindfulness, gratitude, and tolerance, please check out our loving-kindness activity in our new book, Jake the Growling Dog, on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. This adorable picture book about kindness and tolerance is ranked #1 in children’s books about tolerance on Amazon.
Thank you Lola for having me on your amazing blog, Raising A Baby Activist, and I hope I’ve shared some ideas to get us all thinking in a positive and kindness-driven mode of living. Find the Good in each other, in each moment, and in yourself!
Samantha Shannon (AKA Author Parker Sinclair)
Freelance writer & author of binge-worthy fantasy & paranormal books at Rawlings Books, LLC. under the pen name, Parker Sinclair
Webpage: http//:www.parkersinclair.net, Amazon Author Page: http://Amin.to/1XIDwzO Instagram: @ParkerSinclair Twitter: @Parker_Sinclair