Changing the world one child at the time
Stereotyping is not something children do
What you teach them, they will multiply; hence it’s important to think before you speak. Plus most adults are already rotten.
Watching my nephew grow has changed my way of thinking, has made me think of events which created doubt, insecurity and made me uncomfortable in more ways than one. Depending on your perception, and on own experiences, you may be extra careful around children. Swearing isn’t the only thing you shouldn’t be doing, while children do learn and copy quicker from bad behaviour, there are other seeds you can plant in their little minds which can have a negative impact that lasts a lifetime.
Each little heart and mind, is a new opportunity to make the world a better place, and our job is to instil respect, confidence, love, respect, consideration, clear communication and to teach them to live life in an ethical and sustainable way for their benefit as well as for the benefit of everybody else around them. I said respect twice because teaching a little one to respect another’s choices, religion, culture, ethnicity, is very important.
It may sound “cool” to make fun of other people, it may help you fill in awkward silent moments, help you bond with people who otherwise you wouldn’t have anything more interesting to talk about, help you join in the office chit chat, and get you brownie points with the cool kids from school. What you don’t realise is that the children around you, no matter how young or old, are taking it all in, and storing it up to be used one day, not necessarily today.
Children enjoy playing, when taught correctly they help each other, and thrive from making new friends and are exposed to different healthy environments. Children thrive when exposed to different gastronomy, music, locations, colours, and fun educational activities.
Your words however, can dictate how your children, or those around you, will react when offered a dish they have never tried before, and yes they should not trust or accept anything from strangers, but if taught correctly they will know that it is okay to appreciate dishes from different places, or know how to say no in a respectful manner.
I may be biased, but from what I am seeing at home, children do not stereotype, they are intrigued by life and making new friends no matter where from, different experiences makes them happy, as long as they are safe they thrive. They can be fussy eaters at first, but grow to be individuals who can still appreciate the fact that different cultures have different dishes, and not think that it’s ever appropriate to demean or diminish dietary options made by others. If you teach them, they will learn to respect others.
Stereotyping comes from adults, the words you say without meaning in a horrible way, the comparisons you may make with ignorance due to your inability and lack of willingness to learn, the assumptions you make without true understanding, that’s all from the grown ones around, even those with the best of intentions, even your mouth may require potty training.
When I was in primary school, I had a friend called Mara. Mara and I were inseparable, until the day her mother made me really uncomfortable. Surprisingly, I didn’t understand why I didn’t want to go to Mara’s house anymore, I just knew that to them I was different and a lot was expected of me for being different. Mara’s mother was sweet, welcoming, fun, but she was very comfortable in using phrases such as “black people do this” and “black people do that”, I didn’t pay any attention even when Mara and I were playing pretending to be hairdressers and Mara wanted what many of you know as a french braid because I had one, which her mom sweetly said “you are black, you should know how to do one”. I smiled, while I didn’t know how to, it was fun to try.
Then the day came, after afternoon tea (I mean our 4pm snack time), when Mara and I were pretending to prepare tea and biscuits for the baby dolls, then I recommended we wash the dishes, the words sounded far but close, loud but silent, in seconds I felt out of place, cold, and just wanted to go home. Mara’s mom told me that Mara shouldn’t wash dishes, because only black girls do that. You see Mara’s mom had someone who would come and wash her dishes, cook for her husband, and tidy up the house. She wasn’t mean, but she stopped me from wanting to come over to hers.
At mine’s my Mom did everything even with a full time job, a Saturday never went by without a fresh baked cake before I woke up, the house was clean, and Mara loved to join us, and I always had an extra slice packed for her on Mondays and Tuesdays, but then shortly after the last incident she wasn’t allowed as I stopped wanting to go to hers.
It was only after many many years, that I thought about how our friendship ended. And it clicked that Mara’s mom was planting discrimination, stereotypical assumptions, racisms, disrespect in a child’s mind. Everything storing up in the mind of a child who was taught that black people were ugly.
Can you imagine how Mara may have turned out?
Well, today I hope she knows better.