On how to teach children to respect differences, journalist Tina Kos published in the daily newspaper 24 sata the article “Children and discrimination: Teach them to accept themselves and others and know how to respect differences” on June 17, 2020, in which parts of the manual are quoted “Look at the world from my shoes: Why is temperament important?” written by the experts of the Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center, social pedagogue Dora Kralj, clinical psychologist Vlatka Križan and social worker Nikolina Škrlec. Interlocutor in the topic was the psychologist from the Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center Mia Roje Đapić:
If you want your child to be happy, don’t put them in the molds you envisioned and prepared earlier. Observe them, listen to what they says and accept them as they are, because only then can you expect that one day a grown man will be satisfied who will accept himself ‘, is noted in the manual ‘Look at the world from my shoes: Why is temperament important?’ which was published on its website of the Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center, and the authors are social pedagogue Dora Kralj, clinical psychologist Vlatka Križani and social worker Nikolina Škrlec.
These few sentences describe well how people should behave globally – accept and respect diversity. But, unfortunately, this is not the case, and we often encounter belittling others based on race, religion, physical appearance… Children observe the world around them and in some way copy it, but parents are the ones tasked with explaining to their child how to behave in situations when someone is humiliated, ridiculed, and even physically abused for being different.
The Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center notes that it should be borne in mind that ‘violent children can have many reasons for their behavior: they imitate older brothers, parents, relatives, do not know other, better ways to communicate with other children, they have experienced abuse , they are tense due to various sources of stress’
We talked to child psychologist Mia Roje Đapić about this topic and how as a parent you can positively influence your child.
– Children learn much more from what they see than what they hear, so that, as with all important topics in life, the key is not in one or a few ‘big conversations’, but in everyday life, developing critical thinking and showing example of behavior and values we want our children to adopt. If a child sees that parents treat all people equally and with respect, we have an excellent foundation for the child’s development into a person who will behave in the same way – said Mia Roje Đapić, MSc. of psychology from the Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center
– Of course, children are influenced by peers, the media, other adults and are likely to be exposed to some different messages. We cannot and should not protect them from that, on the contrary, it is good to use these situations to talk to the child in which we will discuss injustices, differences in this matter, different values, prejudices, stereotypes and discrimination – she explained.
The psychologist notes that a child can be sad and angry, especially when he witnesses explicit content, from which, she advises, it is better to keep small children away.
– If the child saw something that upset him and came to talk to you about it, it means that your relationship is good and safe. We will help the child to calm down and use this opportunity for further conversation and development of empathy. It is important that we teach the child empathy, and the best way to do that is to give the child empathy from an early age. Regardless of the fact that the child will receive consequences for undesirable behaviors (eg taking away the game), he can always get comfort, understanding, a hug from the parents. We teach children to recognize and name emotions, we teach them how to regulate themselves emotionally and relate to themselves when they are angry, sad…, and this same model children will transfer to other relationships – explains Mia Roje Đapić.
She also says that, although children are not born with a predisposition to discrimination, we know that diversity sometimes scares us and that we generally like those who are similar to us more than completely different from us.
– It is important to help the child overcome the fear of the different, the unknown, so that we direct him to the positive aspects of accepting diversity, eg ‘I’m really interested in what you can learn new! I can’t wait for you to tell me! ‘ Also, we will direct children to look for similarities that we all inevitably look for in choosing friends in the right places – it doesn’t matter if someone is similar to us by race or financial situation, we should rather see if they are similar in interests, values, attitudes and the like – she explained.
– We can also point out to the child how similar it is in some external features to another child (eg they are the same age, live in the same neighborhood, like the same games), but that other child is not his friend because he does not like how behaves in class. Finally, even if someone is not similar to us in any way, if we do not like and are not interested in socializing and learning from diversity, we must behave culturally and with respect, not condemn. These are quite abstract concepts for children, so the best way to learn, I repeat, is to imitate the good example of parents – she adds.
If a child is just a victim or witness of discrimination, he or she must first be able to recognize it and find an adult to turn to for help. Children are often silent out of fear, shame and guilt, and we will best encourage them to open up through experiences from an early age by showing them that we are there, that we love them no matter what and that we will be on their way to solving problems, even if the smallest ones, be a safe haven, not an extra burden or someone who won’t care what they have to tell us. If we don’t listen to children while they have ‘small’ problems, if we embarrass their emotions and punish them for them, if we take away their love, contact, and support as punishment instead of some benefits, of course, we can’t expect them to come with ‘big’ problems – the psychologist pointed out.
In the manual ‘Look at the world from my shoes: Why is temperament important?’ the authors nicely described how important it is for parents to be careful how they comment on the behavior of their children, who are special in some things, whether they are livelier than other children, calmer, crying, stubborn…
INSTEAD: ‘You never have peace’
SAY: ‘You have a lot of energy and you are able to do a lot of tasks’, ‘You like to learn using your body.’, ‘You can find places that are suitable to be active.’, ‘You can calm down when needed.’ or ‘You can learn to manage energy.’
INSTEAD: ‘You’re too sensitive, you’re crying at everything.’
SAY: ‘You can experience your own emotions well, but also other people’s emotions.’, ‘You can help others a lot because you will give them permission to show emotions themselves… and you are able to have close relationships with other people.’, ‘You have very strong feelings. ‘ or ‘You really care about other people.
INSTEAD: ‘You are stubborn.’
SAY: ‘People who are born with the trait of perseverance do not give up easily on anything and often go far in life.’
INSTEAD: ‘You’re so shy.’
SAY, ‘It’s okay to take the time.’, ‘You can think about this situation.’, ‘You can change your mind about how you initially felt about it.’, ‘It’s okay to like to watch before you get involved. ‘ or ‘Change is hard for you, I understand that.’
INSTEAD: ‘Everything distracts you.’
SAY, ‘You are so aware of the world around you.’, ‘You notice so many things around you.’ or ‘You need silence in the room when you’re doing homework.’
– Children, especially younger ones, cannot or hardly recognize their emotions, and even if they manage to recognize them, it is difficult for them to name them and communicate this to us verbally. That is why children often communicate their pain through behavior, such as forgetting to write homework, looking out the window during class, crying, keeping silent in response to questions, throwing things in situations of frustration, etc. – said the authors in a manual designed to help parents recognize and nurture the uniqueness of their child as a whole. ”
Link to download the manual “Look at the world from my shoes” in PDF format (on Croatian language): POGLEDAJTE SVIJET IZ MOJIH CIPELA: Zašto je temperament važan?
Source: 24 sata: Link: https://www.24sata.hr/lifestyle/djeca-i-diskriminacija-naucite-ih-da-prihvate-i-sebe-i-druge-te-da-znaju-postivati-razlicitosti-698467
Disclaimer: This is unofficial translation provided for information purposes. Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center cannot be held legally responsible for any translation inaccuracy.