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How to Teach Children About Equality

ages 11 years - 18 years ages 5 years - 11 years ages 6 months - 5 years communication parenting philosophy Jun 14, 2024


In a world as diverse and vibrant as ours, the values of equality and inclusivity cannot be overstated.  Imagine a society where every individual, regardless of their gender, race, sexual orientation, or even their favorite color, is treated with the same respect and dignity.  This utopia is not just a dream but can be a reality, starting with the lessons we impart to our children.  As a psychologist specializing in family dynamics, I've seen firsthand the impact of early education on a child's development of open-mindedness and acceptance.  Let's explore how parents can instill these crucial values in their children, ensuring a more loving and supportive society for future generations.


The Foundation of Equality

Equality begins at home.  From their earliest moments, children absorb the words, actions, and attitudes of their parents.  It is in these formative years that the seeds of equality, inclusivity, and respect must be sown and nurtured.  Teaching children that "Every person matters equally" is not just a lesson in social justice; it lays the groundwork for a worldview based on acceptance and compassion.


Practical Phrases for Everyday Lessons

As children navigate the world, their innate curiosity will inevitably lead to questions that may challenge us as parents.  Here are some phrases that can help turn these challenging moments into teachable ones, reinforcing the values of equality and respect:

- "Every person matters equally."  When children's observations or comments suggest a misunderstanding of the value of different groups of people, this phrase serves as a powerful corrective, emphasizing the fundamental principle of equality.

- "To each their own."  This phrase is invaluable when children inquire about personal choices, be it in relationships, lifestyle, or even simpler preferences like choice of clothing.  It teaches respect for individual autonomy and the beauty of diversity.  We use this phrase a lot in our household.   

- "It takes all kinds of people to make the world interesting."  This can be a gentle follow-up to discussions about individual differences, highlighting the positive aspects of diversity and the enriching experiences it brings to our lives. 

- "We all have something unique to offer."  This phrase encourages children to appreciate not only the differences in others but also the value of their own uniqueness in contributing to the diversity of the world.


Open, Nonjudgmental Communication

Creating a safe space for children to express their thoughts and questions without fear of judgment is essential for fostering an environment of learning and growth.  This open line of communication encourages children to explore complex topics, knowing they have a supportive guide in their parents.  Encourage open and honest conversations about diversity and inclusivity.  It's important to listen actively and engage in meaningful dialogue, using these opportunities to reinforce the importance of equality and respect for all.


Answer your child’s questions and address any misconceptions they may have.  Kids need answers to their questions, and what better source of information than you?  Having these practical phrases on hand can help give you a moment’s buffer if you’re ever caught off guard by a question your child poses, giving you a moment to get ready to answer any of their tricky follow-up questions.  If you don’t know the answer to one of their questions, research it together using reputable sites on the internet, or plan a trip to your public library.


Leading by Example

Through the pioneering work of psychologist Albert Bandura, we know that children learn as much, if not more, from what they observe as from what they are told.  You really do have to walk the walk, so to speak, when it comes to modeling desirable behaviors for your children.  Therefore, it's crucial for parents to model the values of equality, inclusivity, and respect in their everyday interactions.  Show your children how to treat everyone with respect and kindness, regardless of their differences.  This means treating everyone we encounter with kindness and consideration, challenging prejudices, and demonstrating empathy in our actions.  By living the principles of equality, we provide a powerful example for our children to follow.


Next, try to expose your children to diverse cultures, traditions, and perspectives.  This may be easier said than done depending on where you live and how much access you have to travel, but many of us are fortunate to live in or near exciting cities rich with cultural diversity.  This will help them appreciate the beauty of our differences.


Finally, teach them about historical figures who have fought for equality and justice.  Help them understand the importance of standing up for what is right, and empower your children to be allies for those who are marginalized or oppressed.  Encourage them to speak out against discrimination and injustice.  By following these tips, you can help shape a more inclusive and equitable future for our children.


Enriching the Lesson: Books, Media, and Toys

In addition to the lessons taught at home, parents can enrich their children's understanding of equality through carefully selected books, media, and experiences.  Stories that showcase diverse characters and perspectives can open children's eyes to the wide range of human experiences and the common humanity that binds us all.  Similarly, exposing children to diverse cultures and communities in visual media can foster empathy and understanding from a young age.


There are a lot of great choices out there, and your local public library will likely have a librarian ready to help with more options, but I’ll list a few of my favorites for you.  Speak Up by Miranda Paul features a diverse group of children and teaches the important equality message of standing up for yourself and looking out for others.  Acceptance is My Superpower by Alicia Ortego embodies the message we’re talking about in this post.  The Who Was series features key historical figures like Martin Luther King Jr..



The toys you bring into your home have the opportunity to help your child create a diverse community to interact with in their daily play.  Be mindful of the gender, race, and other physical characteristics and abilities of your child’s dolls, and work to create a grouping rich with diversity.  This will help them to feel comfortable with all types of people and develop empathy toward those who look different than them.


Take-Home Message

In a world where inequality still exists, teaching our children about the importance of equality, inclusivity, and respect is more important than ever.  By using simple, repetitive phrases like "Every person matters equally" and "To each their own," parents can instill a sense of acceptance and understanding in their children.  Open, non-judgmental communication and leading by example are key to ensuring these lessons take root.  As we look to the future, let's ask ourselves: How can we use this knowledge to guide our daily parenting practice?


Teaching your child about equality falls under the Communication category of my 5 C’s parenting framework (click here to learn more about The 5 C’s).  To view more posts in this category, use the category search menu on the right of your screen.  Thanks for joining me to fill your parenting toolbox with psychology-based tools to feel more confident and capable in your parenting.  Keep up the good work on your amazing parenting journey!

P.S. If you’d like to learn more ways to improve communication and strengthen your parent-child relationship, grab your copy of my free resource, 5 Must-Have Tips for Better Behavior Today for more actionable strategies you can start using today!


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