Cultivating Cultural Competence In Children

Culturally diverse childrenIf civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships-the ability of all people, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world at peace. –Franklin D. Roosevelt

The first step to cultivate human relationships starts in the home. Children tend to exhibit the behaviors and attitudes that they observe. If parents want children to value diversity, it’s imperative that parents model respect for all people. In addition, parents must make a conscious effort to provide their children with the skills and tools necessary to grow up to become culturally competent adults.

Research Tells Us…

  • Parents are the primary influence on children’s attitudes toward other cultural groups.
  • Between ages 2 and 5, children become aware of gender, race, ethnicity, and disabilities. They are aware of both the positive and negative bias.
  • Biases based on gender, race, disability, or social class creates obstacles and a false sense of superiority for children.
  • Racism attacks the self-esteem of children of color.

Make Diversity Part Of Your Daily Life

  • Create an environment that reflects diversity. Include toys, literature, artwork, etc. that represents all groups of people.
  • Interact with others that are different. Provide opportunities for your child at school,Different hands together daycare, play-dates, or try attending cultural events together.
  • Talk about diversity. Listen to and answer your child’s questions about what they are experiencing in the world. Talking about their experiences helps them learn from different perspectives.
  • As your child gets older teach him/her how to challenge stereotypes appropriately and what to do when witnessing a bias.
  • Most importantly, parents must model acceptance and open-mindedness about diversity.
  • Make certain that the school your child attends as well as community and religious organizations you belong to promote respect for diversity.

Family Activities

  • Research your own family’s heritage. This will help build a sense of pride and understanding of your cultural heritage in your child.
  • Discuss issues you may hear. Children are going to hear things about diversity and other issues in the media or in the classroom. This brings up a great opportunity to talk to your child about how to respond in an appropriate manner.
  • Learn a second language. Children can start learning another language with simple words like numbers, colors, and naming objects around your home. Our blog post Culturally Responsive Teaching And Environments has great tips on how to introduce other languages in the classroom which can also be used in the home!
  • Explore foods. The cuisine of other cultures introduces children to something different. Try preparing ethnic recipes together at home or dine at an ethnic restaurant.
  • Attend cultural events. Museums, concerts, plays, dances, and attending festivals or celebrations of other cultures are great ways to introduce children to diversity. If you’re a bit apprehensive about attending a cultural celebration/festival for the first time, you might want invite a friend from that community to accompany you and your family to the event.

What are your tips for encouraging cultural competency within your children at home or in the classroom? Leave us a comment!

Jackie Guzman, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

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