Raising an Advocate: Prejudice and Parenting
As promised here’s the next post in the Raising an Advocate series! If this is your first time here, I recommend starting from beginning here.
Here are the ground rules for the series:
1. This series is open to everyone who wants to truly learn and create positive dialogue that will help us educate our children on all -isms.
2. Comments will be disabled on blog posts to insure that people are not able to hide behind “anonymous” screen names. If you want to participate in the conversation, there will be a pinned thread on the Mamademics FB page each week for dialogue.
3. Comments that are blatantly rude or condescending will be removed and the poster may be blocked from leaving comments in the future.
4. Belittling of commenters will not be tolerated. We are all sharing personal experiences and they shouldn’t be invalidated in anyway.
5. That being said I encourage everyone to challenge themselves to move beyond your personal experience and ask yourself if this is something that happened due to one individual/group of people or because of a larger institution/system of oppression.
6. This one is just a suggestion, but if you’re not going to blog along with me I encourage you to purchase a journal, so you can keep track of your ideas.
In the first post in this series, I focused on a time when I realized I held a prejudice. I spent some time focusing on how I’ve worked to change those prejudices and how I hope my son will never find himself displaying prejudice in that manner. This post piggybacks on that one.
I’m sure we can all agree that we prejudge people all the time based on the way they look or how they speak or even simply what they are wearing. On the second day of class, I put my students in small groups and had them do an activity where they found five things they all had in common and then a list of five things that were unique to one person in the group. I stipulated that these things could not be superficial things that we could figure out simply by looking at the person like hair color for example. I also stipulated that they not tell us who each thing applied to on the unique list and the other people in the class had to guess who it applied too. My goals were two-fold: First, I wanted all the students to understand that no matter how different we are we are still connected in some way, and I wanted to show how we prejudge people based on how they look or how they speak. I wanted them to challenge why they felt certain unique qualities applied to that particular person. The activity went really well for the most part and it got them talking about race, gender, sexuality, and age all on the second day of class.
That class session and a news article I posted shortly after the last post in this series sparked me to focus on how our prejudices factor into our parenting. If you follow Mamademics on FB you may have saw a story I posted recently about a young boy who was tortured and eventually killed by his mother and her boyfriend. Sad news stories like these are becoming more commonplace, but what made this story stand out for me was the fact that they did this because they “thought” he was gay. This young boy was brutalized by the person who was supposed to love and protect him because he wasn’t “masculine” enough. Essentially his mother carried her prejudice so far into her parenting that her son is no longer on this earth.
I know you’re probably saying this case is extreme and it’s possible to disagree with homosexuality while still being a good parent. I would ask you to be honest with yourself about your ability to love and protect a gay child if you strongly oppose homosexuality. Will their partner be welcome in your home? Or will you ask them to keep their “lifestyle” out of your home? What if your child is transgender will you treat them the same as your other children? Be honest with yourself.
In my opinion, allowing any of your prejudices to go unchecked will trickle down into your parenting. People always say that children aren’t born with prejudice, so how does it happen? It can’t all fall on the media or outside influences because while those things happen in some ways it will still fall back on the parent. It may not always be direct, but it will happen subtly. Your children will hear the things you say to your husband/wife/partner about an individual or a television show and they’ll take it in without ever saying anything. It may be as simple as preventing them from watching a television show not because of violence or sex, but because there are same sex parents on the show. Maybe you stop them from playing with neighborhood kids because you feel uncomfortable for whatever reason, but you never give them a clear reason why. It can be as simple as you locking your doors quickly when in a “not-so-nice” neighborhood (yes, I do this as well) and I know that I will have to struggle with how to explain to my son that I want us to be safe, but I don’t want him to judge all people from those neighborhoods. Heck, I’m from those neighborhoods…
Or you may be uncomfortable with your son watching a show that’s deemed “girly.” Sesame recently learned how to choose his own shows on our Netflix app and sometimes he clicks on the Barbie show. It bugged me because the voices are annoying (why are the voices on some of these kids shows like nails on a chalkboard?), but my husband was a bit uncomfortable with it because he’s a boy and it’s Barbie. I kept reminding him that it’s no big deal and if we make a big deal out of it he’ll start picking up on it. He’s only 2.5 at the moment, but can you imagine what would happen once he’s in school and a male classmate mentions watching Barbie? He might potentially tell him that it’s a girl show and boys don’t watch those shows. It could lead to him making fun of the boy and others in the class joining in? Or if we continue showing him that there are no “boy” and “girl” only shows, he may be the kid who stands up for the one being teased.
No matter who you are it’s important that you sit down and ask yourself– what effect do my prejudices have on my parenting? How are you working to change it?
Let’s continue the conversation here: Prejudice and Parenting
Are you ready to confront your prejudice and make sure it doesn’t trickle into your parenting? Check out Raising an Advocate’s course availability.