As adults we should all agree by now and be aware of the fact, that just because someone looks different to you, has a different viewpoint to you or has different interests to you, does not mean they should be treated differently (bullied), ‘cancelled’, disrespected or excluded. Surely then this awareness and respect for others can be taught to our children. Otherwise, if it is never taught there is a good chance that a narrow-minded and limited way of thinking, where tiny roots of biasedness and indifference will manifest into unkindness, excluding type behaviours and bullying. Research has clearly shown the character traits of empathy, kindness and compassion are already present in children, however adults need to help them foster and develop these character traits as they transition from childhood into their teens. It is never too early to teach children social s kills and how to show respect to others, so here are 5 ways to encourage your child to respect individuality in others.
- Talk to your child. Yes, talk about physical differences in people but focus on the more important similarities. Everyone has a heart and needs love, to be treated with respect, kindness, fairness and exactly the same no matter how they look, the colour of their skin, cultural beliefs or gender.
Another idea is to focus on how important it is to help other people feel good about themselves, which lessen the feelings of unacceptance and exclusion. Teach them to see the strengths and talents in others and to use encouraging words or phrases like: “That is cool!” “I like the way you do that.” etc.
- Be the model of respect. It is not enough to just talk about showing and respecting the individuality in others, as adults we need to firstly model it in our behaviour, speech, body language and physical acts of kindness towards others. In addition, as you sow some seeds into your own self-management by perhaps; exercising, eating well, limiting screen time around your children etc. which are known to assist in your moods, behaviour and emotions, then it will be easier to be that model of respect so needed for your children to see.
- Encourage inclusivity. I used to have a job where I had to assist in finding careers for people with a disability. Getting them a job was one thing, overcoming other peoples’ fears of the unknown towards people who look or act differently and then encouraging inclusivity is another. It is natural for children to show respect, kindness and empathy to those in their immediate circle of friends and family, the challenge is to help them to respect individuality in others outside this circle, like a new child at school, someone who has English as a 2nd language, or someone in a different country etc. To create and foster an awareness of others around us, outside our immediate circle, it is beneficial to help your child understand and acknowledge how others might be feeling and talking about different perspectives others might have, by (if possible) making the time to get to know them in a more personal way.
- Be authentic. Children are naturally authentic and generally are open to expressing themselves. Building upon this would be to encourage them to ask others the questions like “How are you?” “What have you been doing?” etc. and genuinely caring and listening to their response. This will help your child be less self- focused and assist in building trust, which is a good foundation for lasting relationships., otherwise when people are self-centred and guarded it an lead to a perception of mistrust and misunderstandings, which in turn can lead to bullying. As adults we can also teach them to recognise the feelings they are having, how to cope with those feelings, to honour their commitments to others, to be genuine and trustworthy, which all come under the banner of being authentic.
By encouraging our child to respect individuality in others there will hopefully be a future that consists of less bullying, less loneliness, less limited thinking, less insensitive and less indifference amongst the next generation. As parents we are to be the positive influence in our child’s life, supporting them in working through their day to day lives, to be co-operative and live effectively and in harmony with others, effectively empowering them to positively influence others moods, feelings and emotions and to respond suitably to any inappropriate behaviour from others. It can sound like a lot and yes, it is a huge responsibility, however by sowing the seeds now and starting with these 5 ways to encourage your child to respect individuality in others, it will be worth the life-long lasting benefits.