Munia Ahmed is a Pedagogue of EtonHouse. Munia began her professional career as a teacher in EtonHouse Pre-School Vanda back in 2010 before becoming the Principal in 2015. She later moved to the Pedagogy department in 2019. Munia holds a Specialist Diploma and Leadership in Early Childhood Education from EtonHouse Education Center. She believes the early years of a child are the vital years of learning and sees children as unique and competent individuals with their own strengths and interests.
We live in a world full of diversity. Diversity encompasses one’s region of birth, nationality, race, religious affiliation, age, gender, ethnic heritage, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. Learning more about people and cultures, different from our own, are ways that we celebrate and appreciate diversity. If we’re not aware, a discriminating attitude towards others or being discriminated against can influence our personality and feelings of self-worth. How then, can we inculcate diversity and multicultural awareness in children?
We want our children to grow up in a world free from prejudice and discrimination. Thus, as adults, we need to be mindful of how we as a generation behave. It is clear that we pass our values onto our children through what we say and do. Teaching children the right values is an important step in parenting since we will inherently influence their choices, attitudes, and relationships.
From a young age, children begin to inherit the teachings of their culture. When children enter their first years of school, they’ll get to know peers with a wide variety of abilities and backgrounds. As children are curious individuals, it’s also natural for them to be intrigued by people and practices different from their own. Therefore, it is up to us parents, teachers, and significant adults, to model the acceptance of diversity, and to advocate it as a strength.
At EtonHouse, we respect children as independent and capable individuals. We use the term positive guidance, as a way of reflecting on strategies that encourage and instil positive/socially acceptable behaviours and attitudes amongst children.
Weaving meaningful learning opportunities in our day-to-day life and also through different events and celebrations, we can help our children to understand and appreciate diversity.
Here are some tips on raising a child to accept and appreciate diversity:
1. Acknowledge and appreciate differences
It is important to acknowledge and respond to children's questions and comments about differences. From a young age, build a culture of sharing and discussing everyday life and issues with your child. The first step to understanding diversity is to be aware of it - encourage your child to have an open mind. When faced with a question about diversity from your child, first ask your child what they had seen. Secondly, ask your child to describe their feelings and emotions, and thirdly, discuss what it meant to them. Be mindful that developing this kind of relationship with your child may take time - don’t rush your child into sharing their views.
2. Use respectful and inclusive language
When talking to children, it is important that we use the right terminology. Children are curious and are observant, so we need to be careful how and what words we use to express our thoughts. For example, it’s better to say “he is autistic” than to speak of someone as “having autism”. The use of appropriate tone, body posture and facial expression also matters a great deal.
3. Be a positive role model
Parents are children’s first and most influential educators. They are children’s primary role models as they learn to respond to diversity. Therefore, parents must demonstrate responding to diversity with grace, respect, acceptance, and appreciation. Travel and read books about other countries and cultures to your child. Encourage your child to try new food. Together, visit museums and other cultural arts centres; attend varied musical and dance programmes; go to dinner and lunch with different people. Get to know and make friends with people outside your community and encourage your child to make friends with children from diverse backgrounds. These small steps will truly help children develop a sense of acceptance and appreciation of diversity.
4. Encourage empathy
Children’s development in the spirit of helping others and being empathetic depends on the parent’s role in promoting an appreciative disposition towards society. Visit nursing homes or orphanages. Encourage the act of donation in your child. Start simple by getting them to donate their old toys or books to children from less-privileged backgrounds.