Parenting—this super complex process of teaching a small human how to live—is one of the most important things I’ll ever do. Then I think about all of y’all, training up your tykes in the way they should go, and the gravity of what we’re doing hits me. One thing of the many things I need to do as a parent is to prevent my kids from developing prejudices towards people who aren’t like them.
No matter where you are with your own parenting, now’s the perfect place to start addressing biases. If you’re hungry to learn how to reduce kids’ prejudices, looking closer at these three facets of their life should help.
Proximity: Live Near People of All Backgrounds
First, it’s a fact that kids need to be proximal to people of different colors and creeds to avoid developing prejudices. Think about it—living next to neighbors with different-colored skin helps little Ben, who comes from a black family, meet little James, a boy from a nearby white family. As they spend time together outside and become friends, little James, when he thinks about a black person, thinks of Ben and his family. This is much better than forming an opinion from a mug shot and a sensational news story.
In general, proximity allows your child a more personalized idea of certain groups of people. This stops them from dangerously generalizing when she or he thinks about people of other races and backgrounds.
Praxis: Teach Them to Serve
The next way to reduce kids’ prejudices is by emphasizing praxis. Praxis is a big word, so I’ll define it—it’s “the way people put a theory into practice.” Naturally, a focus on praxis is all about getting to work. Rather than just putting nice, happy thoughts in their head about other people, you need to get your kids to serve others to stop prejudice.
Find ways to help homeless people in your community so your children never for a second think they’re better than them. Serve food to refugee families near you. Volunteer for all sorts of charities. Show your kids that everyone is worth their time and effort. In the process of volunteering, no matter who they do it for, they learn people’s stories and see how these dissimilar people share central commonalities with them.
Parental Modeling: Interrogate Your Own Prejudices
While these other tips are fine and dandy, if you unconsciously model your own deep-seated prejudices, they will absolutely rub off on your kids. The way you model behavior, after all, forms your children.
Instead of a discouragement, I hope this calls you to action.
Thinking through how your family instilled biases into you and acknowledging your lack of perspective is so helpful. It’s tough work, something I don’t encourage lightly, but the fruit of interrogating your unspoken assumptions about people is clear.
Over time, grappling with these prejudices changes you and, by extension, helps your children to avoid them as they grow. I have personally seen the beauty of ending prejudices rather than passing them on, and I hope you do, too.