Valuing Diversity

Updated: Mar 30, 2021

"Knowing your family values and being clear about what these are with your children empowers you to raise amazing humans who do 'good' in the world, treat people the way they would like to be treated and who stand up for what they believe in."

Kirsty Foster, Author of the book Values Guided Parenting.

The shockingly tragic death of African American man George Floyd has been the catalyst to passionate demands for racial equality all around the world. #blacklivesmatter has been the mantra and the support behind this cause has been incredible.

With all of this happening in the world and conversations happening in our own country, our schools and communities, no doubt this has got you thinking about your own values and how to broach this subject with your children. Or perhaps your older children are expressing their feelings towards this subject and initiating the conversation.

What are Your Values?

If you already have a set of family values then you will will be able to link your values to conversations that you have with your children around this topic. If you don't have a set of values for your family then perhaps this could be the perfect time to create one. Here's a handy link to get you started.

Once you know what your family values are then you can begin educating, role modelling and discussing these with your children. Knowing your values will enable you to be better equipped for frank conversations and how to respond in ways that are appropriate for your family - ensuring they are in line with your parenting aspirations.

For example if one of your family values is RESPECT then you would be educating your children about how we need to respect peoples' differences and how wonderful it is to be unique and special.

Perhaps one of your family values is KINDNESS in which case you would be role modelling kind words and actions to ALL people regardless of their skin colour, financial situation, lifestyle, age, sexual orientation, gender, ability etc.

Knowing your family values and being clear about what these are with your children empowers you to raise amazing humans who do 'good' in the world, treat people the way they would like to be treated and who stand up for what they believe in.

Diversity Education

In order to ensure our children grow up with amazing values, we need to be their teachers. We need to be talking to them about our values, we need to be reading books that are aligned with our values and we need to demonstrate and role model our values on a daily basis.

There are so many amazing books out there and one of my favourite ones for teaching diversity (and is particularly relevant right now), is 'We are All EQUAL', by P. Crumble and Jonathan Bentley. You can get your copy here.

'We are all Equal' cleverly and gently teaches our children through some cute animal characters that no matter who you are, where you come from, where you live, what you look like, who you love, whether you are small or tall, whether you walk or run - we should celebrate the richness in our differences and the joy that we are all EQUAL.

Older children may enjoy listening to or reading 'The Good Guys' by Rob Kemp' - you can get your copy here. This book is beautifully illustrated and demonstrates that no matter your situation, culture or age, you can change the world by showing kindness to others. It's a really inspiring book and empowers children to realise that actions they take and words they say have an impact on the world around them. There are some #blacklivesmatter heroes in this book too - namely Martin Luther King Jr, Abraham Lincoln and Nelson Mandela.

But educating doesn't just come in the form of books - it can be through discussions and positively reinforcing the great choices your children make. You can make the most of daily learning opportunities through 'teachable moments'.

Teachable Moments

'Teachable moments' are happening every day with your children. They are the unplanned opportunities that arise where you have a chance to offer relevant insights to your child in a meaningful way. For example your child might be at the supermarket and see a person with a different colour skin than his/her own. He/she might ask about it (hopefully quietly). This is your teachable moment. This is your chance to explain that depending on our background and culture people are born with differences such as skin colour, eye colour, hair colour etc. Then you can pop in some values education e.g. 'it's special to be different to others and even though people may look differently to us, we still show respect and kindness to them'.

Age Appropriate Responses

Depending on how much exposure your child has had to the media lately and their age, they might be asking some pretty direct questions about racial inequality. Of course you'll answer in a way that aligns with your family values. But a general guide to answering curly questions from younger children is to only answer what is directly asked - you don't have to explain the history of racial injustice if that's not appropriate. You can simply answer the question that is asked, invite your child to express how they feel about that, maybe insert some values chat in and around that and leave it there. If you do, however, end up getting into the specifics of George Floyd's tragic death - you might want to include a conversation around how the Police in Australia (and New Zealand for our Kiwi Readers) are here to help us and we don't need to be afraid of them.

With your older children you might decide that they do need to know the historical factors involved here and want to educate them on that. Trust your gut and consider each child's personality type when deciding exactly how much detail to go into. You will know what feels appropriate.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is a powerful way to teach diversity. When you see your child being kind and respectful to those who are different to them, tell them how proud you are of them and be specific about why. It could be as simple as asking a child at the park who is from another culture to play with them, or perhaps it's saying hello to a person who has disabilities. If you spot your child valuing diversity and respond in a warm and encouraging manner they are likely to do it again and again.

Role Modelling Diversity

Finally, it's all very well for us to educate our children on our values around diversity but we also have to 'talk the talk and walk the walk' otherwise our words will be ineffective. For your children to value diversity they need to see you interacting with people from a range of cultures. They need to hear you talking about cultures and differences positively and they need to be in environments where diversity is normal and accepted. Thankfully most schools and childcare centres are like this these days - although some of the playground chatter might not be (depending on the values of the children's respective families). If you do hear of any inappropriate comments happening in the playground, be sure to tell your child's teacher - I know they'd like to know about this promptly so they can rectify the situation.

Thank you for reading this article. I want you to know that here at Parent Like You we encourage diversity and uniqueness. We don't judge you on your parenting style, the way you look, your sexual orientation, or where you come from. We value you for being you and want you to feel safe here in our community

Thank you for being part of it.



Kirsty is a Teacher, Parenting Adviser, Mum of three special boys and author of the book 'Values Guided Parenting'.

She has combined her passion for parenting, her love of literacy and her 17 years of experience working with children & families to found Parent Like You.

Kirsty's vision is to create a positive, informative and nourishing online

experience for parents to enjoy when they have some downtime in their day. She hopes to inspire parents to think deeply about their own values and use these to guide their unique style of confident and capable parenting. 

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