I don’t know about you but it seems that every headline I read lately involves violence to another person, or hatred, or prejudice of some nature. I feel sadness, fear, and a deep desire to try to help.
You, loyal readers, are parents and I’ve always felt that we are in the most important seat possible for changing the world.
As I mull over what we can do, I’d like to share a few ideas and would also like to invite you to join me in a dialogue where we can talk together about ideas we may have for building understanding and stopping the violence Thurs., Aug. 4 at Noon CT. Register here for the “How We Can Promote Peace and Understanding: An Open Dialogue”: http://getparentinghelpnow.com/peace (It’s free, of course.)
Here are a few ideas to get us started.
1. Take an honest look in the mirror. I sincerely believe that each of us harbors some sort of prejudice. No one wants to admit it. When you meet a person who is different than you, what is your 1st gut level reaction and what is the first thought that pops in your brain?
In your gut, do you react with fear? Indifference? Curiosity? Warmth?
Is the 1st thought that pops into your brain a positive or negative thought?
Awareness is the 1st step and then, consciously we can try and change that thought to a neutral thought if you find fear or negative thoughts are present when it is unwarranted or a result of a prejudice you harbor.
What statements are you making out loud that your children hear? Do you tell your kids you should move to the other side of the street if you encounter a group of young black males? Do you condemn all Muslims for the ISIS terrorist attacks? Do you comment that an Asian person was promoted and you weren’t?
Our children, of course, absorb all of these comments and develop a schema. A schema is a mental concept that informs a person about what to expect from a variety of experiences and situations. Schemas are developed based on information provided by life experiences and are then stored in memory.
If you want to take an online test to examine your “unconscious” thoughts, most experts recommend taking the Project Implicit Test. https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html
2. Stop yourself and your child from ever stereotyping.
The human brain likes to categorize people and objects into categories to simplify its’ work. The trouble is that all people are unique. There are no two people who share the exact beliefs, personality traits and behavior.
Whenever you hear yourself or your child clumping people together, even if it’s a positive attribute (i.e. Asian people are smart) stop. Qualify the statement by saying, “Chan is smart. Every person is unique and we need to stop putting people in categories.”
3. Reach out to others who are different and get to know them.
Research shows that we tend to like people and things we are familiar with.
I have a nephew who attends a Catholic high school. There’s a Muslim school across the street. There was no known outreach or collaboration between the two schools. His mom challenged him to reach out. One day, he did. He walked across the street to the school and introduced himself. He wondered if he could have lunch with some students one day. They said, “Yes, of course.” He then invited some Muslim students to have lunch at his school. They did.
A Muslim family invited him and his girlfriend to dinner. He accepted the invitation. The father told him the world would be a better place if more people would simply reach out to others and build personal relationships as Nicholas has.
4. Scan the books you read to your kids, the TV shows you watch, etc. for diversity.
Even if the neighborhood you live in is not diverse, please scan the “neighborhood” you create by exposing your child to people of all backgrounds in your media choices. Look for positive role models.
5.Attend cultural events of groups who are different than you.
Exposing your kids to events and celebrations of other cultures is a great way to open the door to understanding, learning and celebrating others’ contributions.
6. Stand up and stop racism when you observe it.
When our youngest daughter (who is Asian and African-American) was called the “n” word on the school bus one day in middle school, her white friends went with her to the principal’s office to report the offense. My daughter felt supported. The school responded within seconds, informed me and the other parent of the offense and the boy was banned from the bus among other disciplinary actions. Our home was plastered with debris that evening but the school made a statement that this type of language will not be tolerated.
7. Have a strict no fighting rule in your home.
I firmly believe that the way your kids behave towards their siblings will translate into other environments. Do you allow name calling? Do you allow your kids to hit each other? Teach your kids to use conflict management skills in your home and they’ll be trained to use those skills outside the home.
8. What does your child’s school do to promote understanding?
I’ll never forget when I was a Girl Scout leader and it was Martin Luther King Day. The girls were in kindergarten. There had been a lesson about Rosa Parks at school. I asked the girls what they learned? They said, “White people get to sit in the front of the bus.” Is this the takeaway that was intended? I hope not.
Does the curriculum at your child’s school include teaching kids conflict management skills? Meditation? Yoga? And other means known for helping children manage their minds and bodies in a peaceful manner? Does the curriculum favor the majority or include people of all races and ethnicities? Ask for changes.
9. Most importantly, does your child feel unconditional love from you?
When children feel accepted for who they are and are loved unconditionally, they feel whole. They approach the world from a mindset of abundance rather than scarcity.
Scarcity breeds competition, jealousy, and anger. Examine your relationship with your child and let them know every day that you love them for who they are.
10. Join me Thurs., Aug. 4 at Noon CT for an open dialogue on what else we can do to end the violence and bring greater understanding and peace. Register here for this free event: http://getparentinghelpnow.com/peace
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