Did we ever Grow Up?
Do you remember the playground as a kid? Everyone split off into their cliques. You had the cool kids, the nerdy kids, the jocks, the outcasts, and the bullies. As long as those groups didn't intermingle, recess was golden, but if you ever saw a jock walk up to a group of nerds or an outcast surrounded by bullies, you knew there was a problem.
Do you ever look around at the world we live in and think that the same thing is happening now? There's one significant difference, when we were kids, the consequences to our actions were much smaller. Most of the time, the consequences of any of our actions didn't last past summer break. Unfortunately, we are now grown-ups living in that same schoolyard mentality. And the effects of our actions last much longer and affect many more people than just our classmates.
We are currently living in a society of polarized opinions. Social media adds fuel to that fire. (If you haven't watched The Social Dilemma on Netflix, I recommend it.) We live in cliques, just like we did in middle school, and we look at the people who aren't in our cliques as enemies. We see them, and we fear they could be a threat to our social status, so we avoid them. And when avoiding isn't an option, we try to undermine them. We cut them down, so they can't hurt us.
Are You Ready To Become Consciously Unbiased?
Why have you accepted this as the status quo? When you are in the minority, or your beliefs don't line up with everyone else's when you are misunderstood, wouldn't you like people to ask questions? Not patronizing questions, but genuinely curious questions.
I hate when people disagree with me, but it bothers me more when I feel that someone doesn't care to understand my perspective.
My feeling about this intensified when I went to Ellie's Christmas performance at her 3K school last year. They sang in a big room, with a loud sound system, and the volume level overwhelmed her. She had a breakdown. Later in the afternoon, they had a party, Ellie (being a sensory seeker) wanted to be close to everyone. She got into people's personal space. She touched them with a little more force than they appreciated. Instead of asking questions, trying to understand, or simply asking her to stop, they recoiled. Parents pulled their children away from my daughter until she and I were the lone one in the middle of the room. (You can read more about Ellie's differences here!)
Have you ever felt this pain?
We've All Experienced the Isolation of Being Misunderstood.
Whether you have been: a Trump supporter, or a single teen mom, a woman who had an abortion, a white woman married to a black man, the only black man in the room, the only transgender person in your town... at some point, we have all felt that heartbreaking isolation.
It's an awful feeling being misunderstood, unvalued, or unwanted. And the only people who can change the way our society is currently running are us. We have to start having conversations. We have to start asking questions. We have to start opening ourselves up to understanding other people's viewpoints.
I don't think we will ever truly understand someone until we walk a day in their shoes, and well, that's impossible. Still, it doesn't mean we can sit down and have open and friendly dialogue in hopes of understanding another person's perspective.
Growing up in a society where I was more likely to shut a person down when I was not fond of their answer, I needed help learning how to have conversations, ask questions, and consider others' feelings. I knew I wanted to teach these principles to my daughter, so we read some books. Books that teach us ALL the ways people can be different from us, and books that encourage us to ask questions. Books that teach us how we can be kind even when other's aren't. Books that lead us to love ourselves. Books that teach us how to be consciously unbiased.
12 Books to Break Unconscious Bias and Encourage an Open Dialogue
Here is a list of books helping us learn to ask questions rather than drawing away because we fear what we don't know.
Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martines-Neal is a story about how a little girl got her very long name and the generational importance behind each and every part of that name.
We're Different, We're The Same by Bobbi Jane Kates is excellent for younger kids. It looks at each part of our body and how even though we look different, we are all the same.
Are They Really Scary? by Julia Inserro and Tanja Varcelija is a funny story about a spider who explains to a little girl that spiders aren't really that scary. And even though little girls and spiders are different, they can co-exist in peace. Man, talk about some big life lessons in a simple silly book.
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson is a beautifully written story about how it can be scary to walk into a room where you are different than everyone else. This story talks about the importance of kindness and acceptance, not only toward others but also toward yourself.
The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi is a sweet story about a little girl who moves to America and is tasked with choosing a name. This is a heartwarming story of a true friend. I originally got this book for myself. Teaching for VIPKid, some students choose English names and some do not, and I wanted to know how students feel about choosing an English name. It's a thought-provoking story about the importance of a name.
Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun by Maria Dismondy is a charming story about a curly-headed girl who eats ketchup on toast. This story teaches the importance of kindness, even when others aren't kind to you. And how you can be true to yourself while being kind to others.
Strictly No Elephant by Lisa Mantchev is a story about a pet club that doesn't understand that pets come in all shapes and size, and the friends who come together to make a lively, accepting club where pets and friends of all shapes are welcomed.
The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad is a story about a Hijab and its meaning. It is a story told by a little sister who experiences the pain of seeing her sister being misunderstood and made fun of. It is is a fantastic story about the unbreakable bond between siblings, and it is a great conversation starter for Hijab.
Just Ask by Sonia Sotomayor is a beautifully illustrated book about a group of kids that are all a little different. They discuss how they have to do things a little differently than other people. This book is an excellent example of seeing someone different than you and asking them about their differences. You may find out you are more alike than you thought.
I'm Not Just a Scribble by Diane Alber is a fun story about a scribble standing up for himself. This book is fun for teaching self-worth and the power behind creativity.
Snippets by Diane Alber is a wonderful story about how everyone is important. We could live in a world where everyone is the same, but that would be boring. When we each bring in our individual personalities and talents, the world isn't only more exciting, but it will allow our community to grow and advance.
If you enjoy book suggestions, find more here!
Let's Get Better Together
How do you teach your kids that different doesn't mean bad? How did you teach them to ask questions?
I love teaching through books. Fortunately for me (and my antisocial self), my little social butterfly is all about asking people questions, so I have not yet had to teach her by example. Some days she teaches me how to ask questions and rather than casting judgment. Have you had the same experience with your little one?
I'd love to know how are teaching love and acceptance of others to your kiddos. Leave a comment with your ideas so that I can try them out!
If you read the previous paragraph, you see where I say I haven't had to teach by example... Well, that changed. On Sunday, we were out and about, and Ellie saw a girl with eczema. She pointed and yelled, "Why is her skin falling off?" in dramatic Ellie fashion. While I personally wanted to hide, I knew that was not the example I wanted to set, so we approached the girl and her mom and asked if it was okay if we asked her some questions about her legs. Mom was great at explaining what eczema is, and we got to ask lots of questions like, "Does it hurt?". We also got to ask questions like, "What's your name?" and "Do you like ice cream?" After all, people aren't their disabilities, their skin conditions, their sexual orientation, their skin color, or their political affiliations... People are people, with names, feelings, and likes and dislikes. All those other things are only part of the whole person.
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