A few weeks ago my 9 year old son came to me and asked “Can we watch the ‘I have a Dream Speech’ on the internet?” Shocked at this random and unique request, I asked him what had caused him to want to watch it. While we sat down and I began to search for the video, he explained to me about segregation and said “That’s just not right.” I agree, it is just not right, but how did my 9 year old take such a socially debated topic and turn it into a simple statement?
During middle childhood children are continuing to develop morally. They begin moral development in the preschool years, but as they enter the middle childhood they also develop social conventions. A social convention is what your surroundings and society say is the normal thing to do. So if you put together the fact a child picks up on what is morally right and wrong and what is normal in their culture, we get children whom have great ideas and opinions about the world around them. The immediate environment, which is the home, is where children first learn social conventions.
In my home, everyone is treated equal. Black and white, men and women, all people of all ages, are all treated with respect and worth. Having this surrounding my son, without being pushy, has lead him to accept people for who they are. So let’s think about other situations. If we have a child that is raised in a home that is not as accepting of other people, these thoughts will be his first exposure to how he views the culture and society he lives in. Even if this child goes to school and is taught to be kind to others and treat everyone equally, he will remember what his home is like and what his first exposures were like. The same goes for a child that is raised with virtually no conventions. They might not dislike others, but they also might not feel the need to treat others equally.
So what does all this mean for us as parents? We are our children’s first exposure to how we want them to see the world. How we behave and react to social situations is what our children will see and most likely mimic. So maybe, just maybe, we should stop and think of how we treat others or even feel about others and make sure we are showing our children what is best. And for the quiet parents in the corner, let's get fired up for what's right.