How To Talk To Your Child About Exclusionary Behavior (Tips 16-20)

April 29th, 2013 | Categories: Uncategorized

Today’s post concludes the current blog post series with the remaining five tips and explanations. The series covered a topic that was originally introduced on The Communicated Stereotype in a post titled How To Talk To Your Child About Exclusionary Behavior.

Tip 16: Avoid stereotyping and absolutes of ‘always’ and ‘never” such as saying, “dresses are for girls.” When your child points out that someone is behaving outside a cultural norm for a particular group membership highlight that not all people in a group think, act, or feel the same way. Use people who are familiar to your child as examples.

Why? Children are capable of understanding that life is more complicated than ‘always’ or ‘never’ but their first inclination is this type of simple group categorization. By modeling inclusive thinking and behavior you show your child how to handle the complexity of group membership well. Also you show your child that you accept them as an ingroup member even if they do not fit neatly into stereotypical categories.

Tip 17: Model inclusive behavior. When exclusionary behavior happens in front of your child, gently correct those who make exclusionary statements whether directed at your child or not. For example say, “well actually I know someone who does/doesn’t do that.” or say, “oh, really, I hadn’t noticed that.”

Why? Children pay attention to everything. If their ingroup member lets exclusionary comments slide in a conversation, shouldn’t they do the same and also believe them! That only promotes and reproduces exclusionary behavior.

Tip 18: When your child stereotypes or points out a difference indicating they are outgrouping someone, even casually, take the opportunity to align the groups differently. Point out similarities between them instead. At the extreme, play a game in which you ask your child to participate in naming as many similarities as possible.

Why? People are inclined to notice differences. They have to be trained to see similarities. Concentrating on similarities helps children to be flexible in how they are able to categorize others into ingroups and outgroups. This could give them a considerable advantage when they are older.

Tip 19: Explain the group categorization process to your child in accessible language. Let them know sometimes we try to make ourselves feel better by making other people feel bad but that this isn’t nice. Explain that when it happens to them, they can do the same thing back in a way that facilitates empathy not exclusion.

Why? Children aren’t necessarily mean. They just don’t have the same techniques to make themselves have high self-esteem. Your child can help the other person appreciate the situation better and become an ingroup member. My daughter said to her father, “Daddy, sometimes little kids forget things.” It reinforced that they were different and simultaneously evoked empathy because of the similarity that sometimes daddy’s forget things to.

Tip 20: Go out of your way to promote similarities across genders.

Why? The most accepted categorization in the country is the presumed differences between men and women. Your children will confront this dichotomy in the media, school, their workplaces, amongst friends, and in religious institutions. Unlike these places, whether they confront this at home is something you can control. We can never know the way our exclusionary behavior as parents impacts our children in particular. Overall it makes boys less disciplined, less likely to do well in school, more aggressive, and less able to show a full range of emotions. It makes girls less confident, less independent, more materialistic, and less willing to risk success if it means hurting someone else’s feelings. Your exclusionary behavior as parents will reinforce and heighten the exclusion they feel from all these other influences. Your inclusive behavior as parents showing that your child is in your ingroup regardless of gender or gendered behavior will help counteract these effects.

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