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Fostering Tolerance and Respect in Children

Children are born without biases about other people of any race, culture, gender, or disability. We sometimes wonder if we can raise children free of prejudice by just leaving well enough alone and making sure not to pass on negative attitudes. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work this way; society’s messages are too pervasive. As parents and teachers, we need to take positive action if children are to grow up comfortable with who they are and respectful of others.

Child care providers can work with families to create programs that help counter society’s messages of bias and reflect the diverse cultural backgrounds of all children and families. Caregivers can choose books, dolls, and even the pictures on the wall, with an eye to finding balance and show children what they see too little of elsewhere. For instance, make a point of showing men and women of all ethnic backgrounds doing a variety of jobs, both men and women doing household chores and spending time with children, and all different kinds of families enjoying themselves.

Is this only about being “politically correct”? Not really. We can all be committed to helping children grow up confident of their own identity, respectful of other people, and aware of the rich diversity of our community and world. We can do this by working closely together, hearing each other’s perspectives, and finding out more about the cultural background of each person with whom we work.

Parents are even more important than teachers and child care providers in children’s development of attitudes. If parents have any questions about how their childcare program is addressing issues of bias and diversity or if they want to talk over issues that arise at home, they can talk to their early childhood care and education professional. Of course, few of us have all the answers, but supportive child care providers are always happy to talk things over and support parents in raising their children.