The prejudice trap
When teens act on ingrained prejudice, it’s time for parents to start soul-searching.
A teenager goes on a shooting spree, fatally gunning down several people and wounding some – all of them strangers to him. Their crime? They were of a different skin colour from his. How can we help our children to develop tolerance for people of a different ethnic background, religion, or nation?

It’s time for some self-examination
Apart from inheriting our genes, our children also acquire some of our values, history, fears, and prejudices. To bring up kids who are tolerant of people from other cultures we must be aware of our own intolerance and fight it. Only after conquering our own prejudices can we effectively train our children to look at people from other ethnic backgrounds through unbiased eyes.

Stop the blame game
When you face economic problems, do you always look for the easiest scapegoat, for example immigrants, Jews or some other section of the population? Do you find yourself blaming foreigners or a specific population for crime and other vices even though there might be no justification or proof? Whether you are aware of it or not, your resentment for persons of a certain background will rub onto your children. A seed of prejudice sown in a young mind may lead to outright hatred for people of a certain background.

Avoid generalisations
A child can pick up negative attitudes from parents, television, and friends and from other places and start to generalise people’s characters as lazy, stupid, or racist, based on those people’s ethnic backgrounds. Teach your child to treat people as unique individuals. Any tendencies towards intolerance may be addressed with a thought-provoking question such as, “Do you think it would be fair for someone to automatically assume your character based on your skin colour?”

Let go of the past
Some parents pass on prejudice to their children by unwisely holding on to grudges against people of a certain nation or region because of historical injustices. What these parents forget is that not every person from that nation or region was personally responsible for such acts.

Reaching out
Do not discourage your child from forming wholesome friendships with good kids of a different colour, culture, or ethnic background to yours.

A matter of character

If your child had a negative experience with someone from a certain ethnic background, the child may start to view all the thousands or millions of people from that background in a bad light. You have to reason with the child that the problem is with the person’s character and not their ethnic background. It can help to point out good people from that background.

Making life easier
We live in a cosmopolitan world and before we know it, our children grow up and join the job market where they have to work with people from different backgrounds. To make it in the corporate world and in life your child will need to win over the support of people from different backgrounds, which may be difficult if your child is intolerant. Your child’s life will be enriched as she or he learns to respect and appreciate the different cultures in the world.

How do you think prejudice should be addressed by parents?

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