One of a parent’s most important duties is raising a child that will benefit their species. This child should be kind, responsible, accepting, and understanding regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, socio-economic level, sex, gender, sexual orientation, etc. No, the child will not be perfect (no human is), but they should be capable of putting more goodness into the world than hate.
And yet, some parents go out of their way to teach their children to be cruel, judgmental creatures. They take them to anti-abortion rallies and have them scream at the men and women that are trying to use the facilities. They hand their children signs that say, “God hates fags!” and make them sabre rattle them. Or, like the father in this article, they point at fat women and say, “Look at that cow donkey [fat person].”
Most of the time, these children are too young to understand where they are and what they’re doing. They’re simply there because their parents are, and they’re repeating what they have been taught to repeat. This pattern of blind obedience will follow them throughout their lives, leading them to become racist, ignorant, and even downright dangerous. They will ignore facts, lack critical reasoning skills, and perpetuate violence and cruelty. All this because their parents tried to indoctrinate them into their narrow view of thinking.
How do we break this cycle? After all, most parents aren’t trying to turn their children into vicious, judgmental monsters. Rather, they’re trying to instill values that they hold sacred. How can a person who so fully believes in what they’re peddling objectively consider if it’s harmful to their child?
One method is to stop and consider if your child is old enough to understand what you’re saying. Do they understand God, vengeance, states’ rights, history, racial hegemony, a woman’s right to choose, and what immigrants and refugees are leaving behind? Do you understand them? Can you explain these issues to your child in a way that they will understand? If not, it’s probably more important to keep having conversations instead of putting them on the front line.
But a more important criterion is figuring out if what you’re teaching your child will cause them to hurt another person. If your child takes your worldview onto the playground, will they end up hurting another child? If so, you need to reconsider it. Is there another way you can package it? Could you focus more on Christ’s teachings rather than the fire and brimstone portion of the Bible? Could you teach your child to walk away from a fight or that we are all allowed to think our own thoughts and have our own values? Could you encourage them to question what goes against your/their beliefs, facilitating a dialogue? Could you, in a word, teach them to do anything else other than spew names and hatred and use their fists to punctuate their morality? If not, reconsider what you’re teaching.
Because of their age, children have a tendency to view the world in black-and-white. They focus on what their parents want, need, and like and pit that against everything else. As our brains develop, most of us learn to view the world in grays, expanding our understanding of people and the world around us, but the more we are encouraged to ideate or devalue, the harder it becomes for us to develop that much-needed gray area. This is why our country is so polarized and why some people think violence against women, blacks, transgender people, and immigrants is okay. They never developed grays. In order to prevent violence and chaos, we need the grays, so step away from the hate and teach your children that the world isn’t black-and-white. We’ll all be better for it.
* Image taken from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLQwNcXLvrU