My 8 year old son made his own dinner the other night. We were at the grocery store, he saw a bagged frozen entree of sauteed shrimp, pasta and vegetables, asked if we could buy it, went home, read the directions and cooked it all by himself.
Yes, I stayed nearby to make sure he didn’t get burned on the stove, but that isn’t the point of the story.
The point does tie into his problem with math, and the need to learn his multiplication tables. And all of this ties into teaching children good intercultural skills.
Did you catch that word? It was teach. Dillon was able to cook his own meal because I have involved him in the process of cooking for years now. He has stood side-by-side, helped mix, been allowed to dig his thumbs all the way through the eggs and get mess on the floor before mastering cracking them into a bowl.
And, he’ll learn his multiplication tables when he studies his flashcards and memorizes them.
None of this is an accident, and none of it is by osmosis. It’s a combination of setting an example, but mostly by explicitly giving lessons and teaching.
I was reminded this by reading the article “Bigotry, Blindness and Basketball” by Kristin Howerton that was cross-posted on loveisntenough (formerly Anti-Racist Parent).
In the post, Howerton talks about taking her kids, who are black, to a basketball program where another child, who is white, said out loud that he didn’t want to hold her son’s hand because he was black. Luckily her sons didn’t hear this, and had a great time at practice.
When Howerton approached her, the mom of the other child became defensive, saying she didn’t believe her child would say that, because they had taught him to be colorblind. And that there was the problem. In teaching one to be colorblind, we in essence are saying “Don’t talk about race. It’s bad to notice.”
I could be wrong, but I bet you will never hear a parent of color say “I raise my children to be color blind, to not see the color of a person’s skin.” For someone of color, living in a majority white culture, I imagine it’s impossible not to be reminded constantly of your color. It’s the privilege of someone white, against which much of US society is normed, to say “I don’t notice color.” Well, of course not, if all discourse is normed around you (aka me)!
So setting an example and teaching about intercultural communications with our children is critical. Just as a child can learn to cook and do his math equations, he can learn language and reflection on social justice.
Our children may mortify us by what they say at times, but look at how to use it to open an dialogue. If a child doesn’t want to hold hands with someone who is different and you swear you didn’t teach him that, know that he/she got it from somewhere. And if you don’t like what he/she has learned, then provide the language that you hope will guide his/her ideas as he/she grows.