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Raising Children Free of Prejudice

by Alvin Poussaint, M.D. and Susan Linn, Ed.D.

Raising our children and understanding racial diversity in our society can't be seen as separate tasks -- they're both part of our job as good parents. So how do we go about it?

Our children learn their attitudes from us -- the adults around them. We all have ways of thinking and acting that may seem natural to us but aren't necessarily what we want to pass along to our children. In fact, if we don't examine these attitudes carefully, they can be harmful to our children's understanding of their world.

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Children don't come pre-equipped with reactions to each new experience in their lives. For instance, all young children instinctively put things they want to explore into their mouths. But an Inuit child of the Arctic who put a grub into his or her mouth would learn from a pleased parent that grubs are a delicious springtime snack. A suburban American child learns from a horrified parent that grubs are too disgusting to be touched, let alone eaten. Now, do you often feel that you need to learn how to eat unusual insects in this country? Probably not. But we do need to understand our own learned prejudices about people in order to avoid teaching them to our children. We need to make sure that we are showing our children the most positive ways to interact with the world in which they live.

NexT: Parenting in Families of Color

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