In teaching your child respect, it is important that they learn to respect the differences in others. Below are some ways that you might use to teach your child that differences are what make us special.
• Go to cultural fairs. Watch your city’s newspaper for a nearby cultural fairs and events. Going to a cultural fair is a great way to expose your child to cultural differences, including traditional dress, rituals, dances, and foods. This exposure will help your child learn about people that are different from himself and to respect differences. Whether you live in a community where everyone is the same or in a diverse community a cultural fair is always a good idea.
• Read children’s books about respecting differences. There are plenty of books out there that teach great lessons about respecting differences. One of my favorites when I was a child was the Dr. Seuss book, The Sneetches. In The Sneetches, some Sneetches have stars on their bellies and others don’t. In the beginning, having stars makes a Sneetch “good” and the unstarred Sneetches are discriminated against. In the end, all Sneetches realize that it doesn’t matter if they have stars or not. They realize that all Sneetches are important just because they are Sneetches.
• Introduce your children to diverse people. I was raised in a little town full of white Mormons, and I was in college the first time I met a black person. I had to learn late in life to understand and respect people different than myself. I was told about different races and cultures but I learned that it is one thing to tell your kids about differences and another thing to expose them to differences. Take your children to places where they can meet and interact with diverse people. If you live in a small community with no diversity, you might need to be creative.
Watch movies that emphasize a respect of differences. A number of the Disney movies are good for this. For example, think about “Beauty and the Beast”. In this movie, the “beast” is a greathearted creature who has been demonized because he is different.
Another movie that is great for older children (teenagers) is “The Breakfast Club”. This movie is rated “R” for language, and you might have rules against “R” rated movies in your house but if you don’t, this movie is great. It shows five different high school students who come to the realization that nobody is better than anybody else.
• Have your child make a “Me Book”. Your child can learn to respect the differences in other people by thinking about him or herself as a unique person. Have your child write down all the things that make him or her unique. Things like places they have been, allergies, favorites, pets, hobbies, and unique experiences will make for a fun book. Once they have come up with a list of unique things, have them draw pictures of those things and make a book.
• Have your child make “You Books”. Your child can make a similar book about anyone different from herself. Find a picture of someone your child’s age that is unlike her. You might find an aboriginal kid or maybe a kid with severe disabilities. Have your child do some research and find out things like the places that child might have gone, what they might eat, or what kinds of things they might do. Build a book similar to the “Me Book” that focuses on this other person. This exercise will help your child learn that, although everybody is different, they still share common bonds.
• Respect differences yourself. The best way to teach your child anything is to model that behavior. If you embrace diversity chances are good that your child will too.