It’s a Small World for Making Friends

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A recent study posed the question: Is it possible to teach children to be less prejudice? Children undoubtedly start to recognize differences in physical traits – skin color, hair and eye color – as early as 3 years old. Many schools make a point to talk about differences, and I think this is good, but is it always necessary?

Research shows that more face-to-face interaction with different racial groups helps to teach tolerance. I believe this to be true. I also believe difference is what makes the world go round, and “different” doesn’t mean we can’t all mingle or that we shun or ignore people different than us. But unfortunately not all adults get that and it then can rub off on their children, evident through the ceaseless headlines about bullying. So for that reason, it seems that teaching tolerance and talking about differences in school is necessary in an effort curb bullying. 

Personally, I think tolerance and accepting difference should be a natural thing based on day-to-day intereactions in life. We are all born into this world with a clean slate without a mind of stereotypes. That’s evident as you watch toddler and preschoolers play together with a blind eye to difference. Kids have an innate instinct to just play together. Though they may recognize differences, they don’t really care, because they are just kids having fun.

On a recent once-in-a-lifetime trip on a Disney cruise (more to come about that soon), my son and a little girl made fast friends and enjoyed building sand castles on the beach at Castaway Cay where we docked for a day. He didn’t care she was a girl, or that she was mixed race. He cared that she liked making sand castles, digging in the sand and splashing in the water. She didn’t seem to mind that my son, with his light hair and blue eyes, was different than she. I had a very nice time chatting with her parents, and I didn’t care that they didn’t look like me. We are parents and that is something we have in common. It’s important as parents that we remember our children are watching how we act to others that aren’t just like us. Onboard this ship, there were people from around the world, and more than 50 nationalities represent in the staff alone. The staff was extremely accommodating and everyone simply treated the other with respect and a smile.

Though teaching differences is important, maybe if we all just took a deep breath and lived by the Golden Rule (do unto others as you’d have done to you), discrimination and stereotyping might just slip away.