Help Your Child Deal with Prejudice and Avoid its Siren Song
Children are going back to school. Once again, they are judged by teachers, peers and their families.
As much as it is politically correct to eschew prejudice, it nevertheless runs rampant in our schools, churches and families. You cannot protect your son or daughter against prejudice, but you can help a youngster deflect it and then deal with prejudice head on.
Recognize the Statements
Dollars to donuts, you yourself have been guilty of uttering a prejudiced statement. You don't believe me? Well, do any of these sound familiar?
"Germans are arrogant and cold." "Lawyers are dishonest." "Republicans want to take rights away from people." "Democrats are ruining this nation." "Christian conservatives are homophobic." "The gay agenda…." "He's an Uncle Tom" "I am not prejudiced against blacks/whites/Mexicans." The latter is a personal favorite, because the statement carries an invisible "but" right after identifying the group it targets.
Christians, too, have to be careful about faith-based prejudice. For example, "Jehovah's Witnesses are always coming to my door;" "Lutherans are too liberal" or "Evangelicals are narrow-minded."
Understand the underlying Attitudes
While Americans generally understand prejudice to be a racially motivated statement, it is actually a much deeper problem that permeates race, religion, culture and gender. Stereotyping seeks to assign value to those who are of a different group — in an effort to provide the speaker with personal validation (even though it is not factual).
The reason for rampant stereotyping and subsequent prejudicial statements is not always the same. Monkey-see-monkey-do is a common cause; children hear adults make statements that they then internalize and parrot back. Adults hear statements on the news, which they accept without question, and then repeat. Fluke circumstances lead to anger and resentment, which quickly turns into a prejudice.
Face the Consequences
Even though American society and the media champion political correctness, both entities tend to marginalize those who fail to fall into lockstep with them. The same is true in the classroom and on the playground. Although schools have numerous rules about acceptable interactions and no bullying, plenty of comments still fall through the cracks.
A child on the receiving end of a prejudicial statement is wounded, disrespected and hurt. As a result, this same child may become aggressive, resentful and perhaps even self-conscious. The latter gives way to negative self-talk and an avoidance of those who would make prejudicial statements, which in itself eventually becomes prejudice.
Break the Cycle
In the Bible, Ephesians 4:29 counsels: "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." Colossians 3:8 goes further and warns: "But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips."
How are you doing with your speech in the home? Are you falling into the trap of stereotyping and passing on these prejudices to your children? Stop now, before you succeed! It is perfectly possible to evaluate people on an individual basis and judge situations on their own merits. Teach your child to do likewise. If necessary, help the youngster to open a dialog with educators or peers who are prejudiced. Never allow a child to accept a put-down; never let the child put down another with prejudice.
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