Rudolph was a red-nosed reindeer
He was different because of his shiny red nose.
He was bullied he was laughed at and called names by the other reindeer.
They left him out – they didn’t allow him to join their reindeer games.
But one foggy Christmas eve – Santa chose him to pull his sleigh along
And then all the reindeer suddenly realized how amazing Rudolph was
And they loved him and cheered for him
And his name went down in history.
Society quietly accepts those who are similar – those who conform – those who are not ‘different’. And society viciously attacks those who are unconventional or different because they disrupt the status quo.
That is why as parents we are anxious to ensure that our child is just like everyone else.
We want to protect our beloved little ones from being attacked and side-lined because they are different – like Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer was.
But it is important to realize that – it is eventually the “different” who stand out – because they are unique – because they are special.
So it is important to fill children with the courage to be different.
Yes – we do need lots and lots of courage to be different because the world has a very sneaky way of filling us with guilt as soon as we start getting comfortable with looking different, behaving differently and doing something different.
Why is it important to for children to embrace diversity?
Stereotypes are dangerous
Stereotypes can severely restrict who we are and keep us from fully recognizing and exploiting all our talents and abilities.
Centuries of conditioning have stamped our minds with gender stereotypes. Women have traditionally been expected to be good at keeping quiet and silently bearing suffering. Men have traditionally been expected to be warrior like, stoic and emotionless. And we all know how much damage this kind of gender role stereotyping has done.
Stereotypes based on social and cultural beliefs or expectations about appropriate behavior for men/boys or women/girls can limit a child’s aspirations, achievements and well-being. It is important for children to be able to fully recognize and express who they really are if they are to flourish and live to their full potential.
As parents we must recognize and reject every kind of stereotype. We must also help our children to identify and bravely refuse to accept any stereotype that they may find being pushed onto them.
It is important to teach children to embrace diversity – to give them the courage to be different if we want them to thrive and not just survive.
All of us will be different at some point
There are situations in which each one of us is different. If you want to step out of your cocoon and explore the world – you will have to find the courage to be different.
You may be the only one in a foreign country who does not speak the language being spoken.
You may be the new student in a class.
Or you may be the only one who turns up at a formal event in casuals.
The difference may be small or big – important or unimportant – temporary or permanent – but it must never be given the power to crush us and make us feel small or inadequate
We must teach children to be kind and empathetic when someone else is different or does not fit in – because this makes it much easier for children to then be kind to themselves when they are the odd ones out. The world is becoming a village – we can’t stay away from our immediate neighbors. We need to embrace people and cultures that are different if we want our children to be global citizens.
Empathy is the currency of the future
Empathy is what will help us move forward in the world – whether we are scientists or entrepreneurs. Whether you are creating a product, a service or a new gadget – it is your connection with the people around you and your ability to understand their needs that will finally help you create something that will be valuable and successful.
Inclusion and empathy are qualities that we must nurture in ourselves if we wish to pass them on to our children
How can you teach your child to be inclusive?
Not everyone will be kind – but we must be kind because everyone needs kindness and what goes around comes around. Teach your child kindness by exemplifying it in your own life. There will be times when your child’s peers will be unkind and peer pressure will compel your child to ask – “Everyone is doing it why can’t I?” Always reply with – “Because they don’t have someone to tell them what is right and what is wrong – but you do.” Being kind to those who need it – is the first step towards being kind to our own selves when we fail or when things go wrong. Be kind because you will need your own kindness.
Also read How To Teach An Only Child To Share (No Siblings)
Empathy is the ability to feel another person’s suffering. Empathy helps us to experience what a situation feels like – much before we are in that situation. Being empathetic to a person who is different helps when you are the odd one out because you have felt another person’s pain before and you know you are not alone.
If your child is empathetic to the needs of a new neighbor and helps the new neighbor settle into the community – she/he will be able to use the experience to her/his advantage when she/he is the new kid in school/college.
Also read 30 Best Cooperative Games And Activities For Toddlers and Preschoolers
Don’t refer to anyone by their bad characteristics
It is easy to label people and refer to them by the characteristics that make them different – but try to identify characteristics that they can be proud of instead of characteristics that may embarrass them. Instead of saying the short girl, the dark lady or the bald man – call them – the polite girl, the vivacious lady or the helpful man.
Don’t gossip about others
Say no to gossip – because gossip is always centered around exclusion. It thrives on laughing at people for being different and pulling down people who are trying to overcome challenges and do things differently.
Emphasize that different is not bad
Teach your child that no one is bad. There are people who do something differently. There are people who do things that are wrong – but they are not bad people. Start with removing the labels – bad boy and bad girl from your vocabulary when you scold your child for doing something wrong. Teach children that being different is not bad. Being cruel to someone for being different is bad.
If you have nice nothing to say – keep quiet
Set an example for your child with your behavior towards others. Always be polite, helpful and kind. Consciously eliminate meanness and envy from your interactions with others who are not like you. Don’t make the world equal by pulling others down – make the world equal by raising yourself and pulling others up with you. Stop looking at the world with envy and fear.
Reassure and reiterate your love to your child
What your child really wants to hear when she/he tells you about this facet of her/himself is that you still love her/him and will always love her/him – no matter how different she/he is. So say it. Admit your unconditional love.
Diversity is what makes the world beautiful. Diversity enriches us when we embrace it with our hearts. Let us come out of our cocooned existences, let us open our hearts and minds and create a better more inclusive world for our children. This Christmas – teach your child about diversity and inclusion.