This tip may not be as expected as the other tips in this series on raising kids who care, but it is critical. Prejudice sets up walls between you and others that inhibit your ability to care for them. Since prejudice is often something that is passed down through generations, it is imperative that you show no signs of it in front of your kids so that the world can remain wide open for them. Who knows where your children will be working in the future, what hobbies and volunteer activities they will choose, or who they will fall in love with? If they grow up free from prejudice, their opportunities will be far greater and their social interactions far less complicated.
All of this is tricky, however, you DO want to communicate your values, opinions, and beliefs with your children. The challenge is to show respect to all kinds of people, even when you disagree with their viewpoints or life choices, and to keep your comments about people free from unfavorable generalizations.
I am grateful that one thing my parents had in common was freedom from prejudice. They both put a high value on respecting an individual, whether a stranger, neighbor, politician, grocery store bagger, or cleaning lady. My father still delights in striking up conversations with people of all sizes, shapes, colors, and ages. Sure, being a social kind of guy helps, but being free from prejudice is one reason he’s so social. The fact is, when you are unprejudiced, you tend to be aware of the basic human traits that you have in common with others, which, in turn, makes you less afraid and uncomfortable around others, which makes you more social!
As soon as your youngins find themselves in a clique, let them know how happy you are that they have special friends, but do your best to explain that they must think for themselves, and not make decisions based on the mood of the group or the leader of the pack. In other words, if someone in the group tries to get the others to dis an outsider, encourage your child to remove him or herself at that time, or to stand up for the victim. Such brave behavior is easier for some, but all kids can be taught to refrain from the kind of talk and behavior that puts others down; that essentially says, “we are better than you,” and is akin to prejudice. Teach and model for your children life without prejudice…and let freedom ring.