Children are naturally inquisitive, and they are sure to notice differences between themselves and other people they meet. When a child comes into contact with someone who has a significant difference from them, such as a disability or different skin color, it is normal for the child to have questions. However, if you hope to raise responsible, caring adults, you need to teach your child to be kind, respectful and welcoming to all people, regardless of their differences. Below are some tips to help you teach your child how to be inclusive.
1. Model the right attitude.
Many parents feel nervous when discussing diversity and inclusion with their children. However, if you are hesitant and uncomfortable, your child is likely to feel the same way. Do your best to be calm and open when discussing these important topics with your children. Show your children that this is an issue that should be taken seriously and never ignored or dismissed.
2. Look for opportunities to have meaningful conversations.
The more your child is exposed to the idea of diversity and inclusion, the easier it will be for him or her to be an inclusive person. Look for opportunities to discuss this issue with your child. When your child draws attention to a difference in someone else, don’t chastise him or her for noticing. Instead, turn the conversation into a teachable moment. Remind your child that it’s okay to notice differences, but these differences should never be used as a reason to avoid someone or treat them badly.
3. Use respectful language and teach your child to do the same.
Resist labeling people according to their race, ethnicity, disabilities or other such characteristics. If you are going to refer to someone based on one of these characteristics, use "person-first" language. For example, instead of referring to someone as an "autistic boy," say "boy who has autism." Model this language for your child and encourage him or her to speak the same way. When your child uses a label or otherwise speaks about someone disrespectfully, provide gentle correction and remind the child why it is important to use inclusive language.
4. Don't hesitate to point out examples of poor behavior.
As you go through life with your child, you will encounter other people who are not being inclusive. Whenever you notice another person behaving this way, point out the behavior to your child and explain why it's wrong. Ask your child to give examples of correct behavior.
5. Encourage dialogue.
Teaching your child about inclusion should always be a two-way conversation. Rather than simply providing instruction to your child, encourage your child to ask questions and contribute his or her own thoughts to the conversation. Answer all of their questions honestly.
6. Teach your child to focus on similarities.
It is natural for your child to point out differences between themselves and others. Teach your child to actively look for ways in which they can relate to others who are different.
7. Use positive reinforcement.
When you see your child behaving inclusively, using inclusive language and practicing any of the other skills you are trying to teach, take a moment to praise your child for doing the right things.
Teaching your child to be inclusive is one of the most important things you can do to ensure that they will make a positive impact on others in the future. Remember to keep the lines of communication open and be patient as your child works to understand these confusing issues.