THE WORK OF TEACHING KIDS TO VALUE EVERYONE
By Lauren Terrell
“I will never be friends with Will*! He has a funny looking hand, and I will never play with him!”
my 4-year-old passionately declared the moment she climbed in the backseat of our car
after her first day of pre-k. I froze, eyes wide, mouth open. My eyes flicked to the rearview
mirror where I could see my little girl, scowling, arms crossed over her new navy dress with the
words “BE KIND” spelled out in sequins. Where had I gone wrong? How had I missed the signs
that I was raising a monster?? What were the magic words I had to say to reverse this
immediately?After every tactic I knew to compel my daughter to show empathy toward Will was
met with an outright dismissal, I ended with a clear demand: “I want you to be kind
to everyone because everyone is important.”
“I knooooooww-uh! STOP TALKING!”
Confirmed: I was raising a monster.
That afternoon, as she watched Daniel Tiger (singing, “In some ways we are different, but
in so many ways, we are the same” in the background), I ordered no less than 10 Everyone
Has Equal Value- themed picture books to subtly slide into our bedtime story rotation. I added
movies to our queue with diverse heroes, researched places we could go as to expose her to
all kinds of people. And I signed our family up for a Meals on Wheels route.
I wish I could say she went back to school the next week and invited Will over for
a play date. But I learned that I can’t teach love in one day. There were no magic words I could say.
The truth is, my work on this subject will never be done. Not after reading all the books, watching
all the movies, and delivering all the meals. Not even after she got in the backseat one day in May
and announced, “Will is actually my friend!”
Being intentional about the books we read, the people we interact with, the way I speak to and
about others—this is work I should have been doing all along—work I must continue doing the
rest of my life. We all have prejudices, fears, and biases. And we all have to be willing to
do the work needed to make sure the next generation is one defined by their ability to see
the intrinsic value in every person they meet.
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