The UK population is becoming increasingly diverse. To ensure their
potential for success children need to
live and work amicably and effectively alongside others from a wide range of racial
and cultural groups, backgrounds and abilities. One of the greatest
obstacles to this is prejudice. While we would like to believe that prejudice
is a problem of the past, this is not the case. Incidents of prejudice and
discrimination still occur.
Children need to understand that there is no place for prejudice or discrimination
during play or at home, school or place of work.
best efforts of many parents and teachers, children can still learn prejudice
and practice discrimination. How does this happen?
is learned through living in and observing a society where prejudices exist. Children's
opinions are influenced by what the people around them think, do and say. Even
if you as a parent are a model of tolerance, your children could still be
exposed to influences such as the media where difference is not always
respected or where stereotypes are reinforced.
no one explains that this is wrong a child may grow up thinking that this is
the way it is supposed to be, and that people who have been discriminated
against deserve this treatment. This is why it is so important to address
issues of prejudice and discrimination when and wherever they occur, to point
out inequities, and to let children know such ideas and actions are
Make sure your
children understand that prejudice and discrimination are wrong and unfair. Make it a firm
rule that no person should be excluded or teased on the basis of race,
religion, nationality or ethnicity, accent, gender, disability, sexual
orientation, or appearance.
children become sensitive to other people's feelings. Share stories
and books with your children that help them to understand the points of view of
other people. When personal conflicts occur, encourage your children to think
about how the other person might be feeling. Studies indicate that caring,
empathic children are less likely to be prejudiced.
Help your children understand the seriousness of
name calling. Often young children do not know the meaning of the words they
use, but they do know that the words will get a reaction from the victim.
Children need to learn that discriminatory language is unacceptable and is as
bad as undesirable physical behaviour. Children who use a racist or other
hurtful name should be talked to right away. They need to understand that they
have made a mistake and have hurt someone.
recognize instances of stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination. Point out and
discuss discrimination when you see it and make sure children know how to
respond to such attitudes and behaviours. Television, movies and newspapers
often provide opportunities for discussion. Encouraging children's critical
thinking ability may be the best antidote to prejudice.
children to create positive change. Talk to your children
about how they can respond to prejudice and discrimination. Confronting other
children can be particularly hard, so children need to have a ready made
response to such instances. If another child is called a hurtful name, a friend
might simply say, "Don't call him/her that. Call him/her by his/her
name." Or, if your child is the victim, "Don't call me that. That's
not fair." or "You don't like to be called bad names and neither do
I." In all cases, try to help your child to feel comfortable in pointing
appropriate action yourself against incidences of prejudice and discrimination. For example,
if other adults use bigoted language around you or your children, you should
not ignore it. Your children need to know that such behaviour is unacceptable
even if it is from a familiar adult. A simple phrase will do: "Please
don't talk that way around me or my children." or "That kind of joke
offends me." Adults need to hold themselves to the same standards they
want their children to follow.
Accept each of
your children as unique and special. Let your children know
that you recognize and appreciate their individual qualities. Children who feel
good about themselves are less likely to be prejudiced. Also, notice unique and
special qualities in other people and discuss them with your children. Children who have poor self-images are more
vulnerable to developing prejudices. They may try to bolster their own
worth by finding a group of people whom they can put down. An insecure child
might think, "I may not be very good but I am better than those
Respond to Children's Questions and Comments. Find out more about what
your children think in order to know what misconceptions may need to be
corrected. After you have determined what they think, respond with a simple,
"I'm trying to understand why you said that, but I don't see it that
way." Be direct. Be brief. Use language your children will understand.
Examples of questions that might be addressed:
people like those people? Why do people call them names?"
could be: "Some people make judgments about a whole group people without
knowing very much about them. Sometimes people are afraid of those who seem
different from them and, unfortunately, they express that with name-calling and
negative treatment. When people grow up with these ideas, sometimes it's hard
to get rid of them."
It is important
for children to know that they can help to overcome racism, sexism and all
forms of bigotry. Show them how the choices they make can help to create a
fairer world: "When a lot of children like you grow up, differences will
become less and less important, and people will respect each other even for their
those people look (or act) so funny? Why can't he walk? Why do they believe
such strange things?"
to realize that all people are different. It is important to communicate to
children that we often think others are different simply because they are
unfamiliar to us. We don't think our own beliefs and appearances are strange or
funny because they are what we're used to. Point out that we must appear
different to others, too.
like (name of group) people."
Such a comment
needs to be handled carefully. It is important that you address such comments
without making your children become defensive. With young children, the tone of
the discussion should be one of exploring their thinking. A discussion might go
as if you know all the people who are (name of group), and that you don't like
any of them. You can only like or dislike people you know. If you don't know
someone, you can't have a good reason for liking or not liking them. There are
children you may not like to play with, but their skin colour (religion,
accent, appearance, size, etc.) should have nothing to do with it."
Discuss with your children the character traits they look for in their friends,
such as kindness, honesty, etc.
Some definitions explained: