Be curious, not judgmental
I love this quote by Walt Whitman because it gets at something we don’t often discuss when dealing with the issue of tolerance. In an effort to avoid being judgmental, we sometimes throw the baby out with the bath water, viewing everyone and everything through the same lens—or not viewing them at all.
When teaching kids not to bully, we sometimes tell them that everyone is the same, but this is just not true. Everyone is not the same--thank goodness—and it’s important that we teach children to celebrate, not ignore, differences. This begins by encouraging curiosity.
Curious : Eager to know, inquisitive
The definition of “curious” is “eager to know, inquisitive”. If you’ve ever spent time with a child, you know that this trait comes naturally. Everything is new, everything is exciting, and with this novelty comes a natural desire to learn and understand. Though they learn in many ways, the primary way children discover the world around them is by asking questions. As I’m sure you also know, these questions aren’t usually filtered.
Unlike adults, children don’t know what questions they’re “not supposed to ask”. They don’t know they aren’t supposed to ask why another child’s skin is darker or lighter than theirs. They don’t know they aren’t supposed to ask why a person “talks funny”. They don’t know they aren’t supposed to ask why someone gets around by sitting in a moving chair. So, they ask—much to the embarrassment of their parents. It’s not an uncommon site to see a parent harshly shushing a child and dragging him or her away quickly as they flash an apologetic look at the person in question. The question is…why?
The answer is usually backed by good intentions. Parents may scold their children for asking these “taboo” questions because they want them to focus instead on the things we all have in common. While this isn’t necessarily a bad goal, it can have some unintentional consequences. For starters, when we completely discount diversity, we imply that differences are bad; something to be ignored and hidden. Additionally, we have a tendency to fear what we do not know. How much more will children fear unknown differences when they are coupled with the idea that differences are bad?
Perhaps the most common reason parents discourage the curiosity of their children is for fear of hurting the feelings of another. While a child will rarely point out a difference out of meanness, the person to whom they are referring may still feel uncomfortable being singled out or may be painfully reminded of the many times they were made fun of or excluded for their difference.
So what is the solution? The truth is, when dealing with children, it’s impossible to avoid all embarrassing situations. However, there are ways to minimize hurt feelings while still encouraging natural curiosity. Here are a few basic guidelines:
As adults, it’s easy to think we have it all figured out; that we know all there is to know. However, just like squelching the questions of children, believing we know it all can rob us of the joy of learning something new and wonderful about the people around us. So today, ask questions. Look at things from a new perspective.
“Hello! My name is Mrs. Smith and this is ___...”
It’s a phrase I am sure many of us have heard on multiple occasions. We meet a new person and then she introduces us to her friend, giving a name followed by a quick, descriptive tidbit about her, such as “This is Jane, my assistant teacher. She’s been just great building the art program this year.”
Unfortunately, with so many new faces to meet, we rarely move too far beyond this initial elevator speech. Even more regrettably, this issue isn’t restricted to the adult world. The same situation often occurs with children who prefer to stick to those students they know rather than find new playmates. While it may seem harmless, such surface-based relationships often lead to misunderstanding, hurt feelings, and even bullying. It’s a lot harder to hate or hurt someone when you actually know them; when they are more than a face and a label.
This is why we have created the “This is…” Project.
Inspired by the picture book This is A. Blob, by L.A. Kefalos, the “This is…”Project is a fun and easy way to build relationships and discourage exclusion in a group environment. While it’s designed for classrooms or large groups, any two people can try it!
Here's what you’ll need:
Begin by reading the picture book, This is A. Blob by L.A. Kefalos as a class. As the title suggests, this book explores the labels others use to define us, as well as the way our actions define ourselves. In the book, the narrator opens by stating “This is A. Blob. A slimy, purple gob.” Throughout the rest of the picture book, the narrator uses different words to describe A. Blob, such as “punk” and “thug”.
Vivid illustrations of A. Blob punching and sliming children on the playground drive these descriptions home. As the story progresses, however, the narrator reveals a different side to A. Blob, now using just one word to describe it--“lonely”. Images of A. Blob staring at a wall and sitting alone on the playground hint that there may be more to A. Blob than meets the eye.
BOOK 2 NOW AVAILABLE!
A. Blob is back, and this time it's on a bus! As the slimy bully pokes and pesters the children of Lincoln Elementary School, it seems like they will never be able to ride the bus in peace. That is, until one brave girl takes stand.
Can one act of bravery change everything--including A. Blob? Find out in this second installment of The Blob Series!
About Laughing Leopard Press
Hello! We are Laughing Leopard Press, an independent book publisher from Akron, Ohio. At Laughing Leopard Press, we’re interested in publishing works that contribute to our understanding of this wonderful world. Through this blog, we hope to add to that understanding with commentary on life, literature, and a few things in between. We hope you enjoy the blog and take some time to talk with us in the comments or on our social media sites. Happy reading!
For some more great reading, check out our latest release, This is A. Blob by L. A Kefalos. This is A. Blob is a picture book that deals with the sticky issue of bullying through an unlikely character that is a bit sticky itself! As readers follow the antics of A. Blob, they learn to put themselves in the shoes of another and discover there may be more to this bully than meets the eye…
$1.00 is donated to charity for each book sold on this site--half to St. Jude's and the other half to PetFix Northeast Ohio.
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