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.
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!
This is A. Blob by L. A Kefalos. $14.95
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