Having young children has been incredible in all kinds of ways, but one thing I am made aware of on the daily is just how much of a blank slate children are. It really is astonishing. Children are sponges, and they learn and pick up EVERYTHING that you do and say. We all know this, no surprise. But sometimes we forget that they hear and process it all – the good lessons, as well as the unsavory talk that we sometimes have.

The kids and I were doing a puzzle of the United States the other day, and we’d talk about each state as we put them in (we do this one nearly every day). Things like; “this is where Mommy is from”, “this is where we live”, “this is Mommy and Daddy’s favorite state”, and I found myself saying about one particular state, “this state is terrible”…because it’s a state I really don’t care much for. BUT I quickly caught myself and turned it around because I realized immediately that I was imparting my prejudices about a certain place on to the kids, which truly isn’t fair. And not something I wish for them to think about something they haven’t even experience. Perhaps it’s not a place for me; a place I fit into well, or align with at all…but that doesn’t mean I need to make it the same for my young kids who haven’t even experienced it yet. That’s just teaching prejudice.

And it reminded me of a song in South Pacific called “You’ve got to be carefully taught”, which I’m sure many of you know. The lyrics are:

You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear, you’ve got to be taught from year to year
It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught
To be afraid of people
Whose eyes are oddly made
And people whose skin is a different shade
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

And it’s something I’m reminded of every day with tiny little sponge children. They have no pre-conceived notions of how the world is. To them, everything is glorious and beautiful and exciting. People are still all the same to them.  And R&H were right – you have to be carefully taught, because kids are colorblind in all kinds of glorious ways. It’s the best thing about children. And it’s an amazing daily reminder to really be aware of my own superficial notions of people.

So find yourself some littles to hang out with for a few hours…you can borrow mine! 😉 It’s always a great personal barometer check. And remember that prejudice is taught. We aren’t born with it. And even though we may have learned prejudice, it’s never too late to learn how to overcome prejudice.

-Dr. Charity Wicks

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