5 Wonderful Ways to Raise Inclusive Kids

A group of schoolchildren gather around a globe.

A group of schoolchildren gather around a globe.

Originally published on Role Reboot and republished here with their permission.

Post-election, many parents are considering how negative comments made by President-Elect Donald Trump will affect our children – both as actors and as victims.

Referred to as the Trump Effect, there has been a significant increase in race- and religious-based taunting and harassment throughout the election season.

As we’ve seen, Muslim and immigrant children have been especially targeted. Teachers have reported fear in students of families being separated and places of worship being shut down, especially 

Josie Ramon, twelve, was brought to tears as her schoolmates chanted “Build that wall!” at Royal Oak Middle School in Royal Oak, Michigan. The horrifying incident happened the morning after Trump was declared the winner of the 2016 US Presidential Election.

The challenge is ensuring your children are not only safe, but also not part of the problem.

With such heartbreaking displays of bullying practically endorsed these days, many parents are unsure what to do.

But we are far from hopeless. One way to combat negative outcomes post-election is to raise more inclusive children.

Loosely defined, inclusion is the process of creating an environment that not only involves diversity, but also actively helps historically marginalized people like members of a community.

An increased sense of purpose, higher self-esteem, and increased achievement are only a few benefits of community.

In today’s climate, it’s imperative that we do all we can to provide an inclusive environment for our children. The first step in that direction is to be sure that you are doing all you can to raise a child who understands the importance of inclusion.

Here are five habits to get you started!

1. Don’t Shy Away From Difficult Topics

Back in the day, parents handled difficult topics by avoiding them completely. While that strategy seemed (minimally) effective a few decades ago, we’re now in the age of the Internet.

In other words, if a child has access to technology, they have access to everything. Hiding things from kids doesn’t work.

From birth, children show signs of being very perceptive to differences. A more effective method is to encourage dialogue about hard topics instead of avoiding them.

This provides parents with the ability to teach children the appropriate way to respond to differences – before they have the chance to be influenced by peers.

2. Expose Them to Different Cultures

Many times, I think we get so caught up in the idea of “traditions” that we forget the US is a nation of immigrants (other than Natives and many Black folks) and there is no one “American” culture.

Teaching your children about all cultures instead of just your own will help them to include and value everyone.

Of course, be sure to teach culture in context and stress how important it is to resist cultural appropriation.

There are many ways to appreciate other cultures without perpetuating oppression.

Tip: Expose them to different cuisines. Consider having one night a week that you break routine and have food inspired by another culture. If possible, incorporate the history of the meal and note if it’s associated with any special occasions.

Bonus Tip: Educate your children on a variety of religions. Consider attending your local Unitarian Universalist Church. UU congregations are wonderful because they take practices from a variety of belief systems – even Humanism.

3. Teach Them About Bullying

While bullying has always been an issue, modern technology has led to the possibility of cyberbullying.

The home used to serve as a place of refuge from “old-school” bullying, but now harassment can be experienced 24/7 – anytime, anywhere. 

And because cyberbullying can be done anonymously, it’s often difficult to track and punish culprits. 

According to stopbullying.gov“children who are cyberbullied are more likely to”:

  • use alcohol and drugs
  • skip school
  • experience in-person bullying
  • be unwilling to attend school
  • receive poor grades
  • have lower self-esteem
  • have more health problems

If you know who your kids’ friends are, it’s easier to open discussions about their behaviors and whether or not they are acceptable. If your child shares a story that sounds troubling, ask questions to get a sense of how they feel about those situations.

Communicate regularly with your child. Be sure they know bullying is not acceptable behavior and that they should tell a trusted authority figure when they experience or witness bullying.

4. Be an Authoritative Parent

Authoritative parenting provides an environment that encourages critical thinking and appropriate levels of independence.

Those who practice this parenting style have high expectations of their children, but also provide the resources necessary to fulfill those expectations.

Authoritative parents:

  • listen to their children
  • encourage independence
  • place limits, consequences, and expectations on their children’s behavior
  • express warmth and nurturance
  • allow children to express opinions
  • encourage children to discuss options
  • administer fair and consistent discipline

Children raised by authoritative parents have reported increased levels of confidence, self-regulation, and critical thinking skills.

A well-developed sense of reasoning and independence encourage kids to thoughtfully evaluate a situation rather than instantly following the crowd.

An authoritative approach to parenting is also a helpful framework for correcting your child if you suspect they are in the “bully” role.

Children will make mistakes from time to time. As an authoritative parent, you should lovingly inform your child when they engage in harmful behaviors, and teach them to value accountability and genuine apologies.

5. Encourage a Healthy Blend of Individualist and Collectivist Principles

It’s important for children to have a healthy balance of “me” and “us” principles.

Teaching your child the value of a group is another way to raise inclusive children.

There is nothing wrong with being an individual – being independent is wonderful. But when combined with a respect for group dynamics, the result is a well-rounded child.

Here are some of the ways individualism and collectivism differ:

Individualism:

  • fostering independence and individual achievement
  • promoting self-expression, individual thinking, personal choice
  • associated with egalitarian relationships and flexibility in roles (like upward mobility)
  • understanding the physical world as knowable apart from its meaning for human life
  • associated with private property, individual ownership

Collectivism:

  • fostering interdependence and group success
  • promoting adherence to norms, respect for authority/elders, group consensus
  • associated with stable, hierarchical roles (dependent on gender, family background, age)
  • understanding the physical world in the context of its meaning for human life
  • associated with shared property, group ownership

Children with an understanding that everyone in the group has value and no single person’s needs are more important than the others are more likely to show concern for others.

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There a plenty of other ways to ensure our children are on the right path. What will you do to help the next generation foster inclusivity?

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Ambreia Meadows-Fernandez is impulsive, yet shockingly well-prepared, and has a tendency to take leaps and land on her feet. She is passionate about breastfeeding, social justice, and her family. A military spouse to Rico and mom to Salem, Ambreia is waiting to see what is next in life. See more of Ambreia at her writer’s page and website.