Today, we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr, a man who believed that people should accept each other’s differences.
Even though we’ve made progress down that road of acceptance, there are still times when we struggle with people who are different from us.
You may even see the struggle in youth sports when it comes to accepting team mates who are different. How do your kids treat people who differ in color, religion, skill, personality, culture, or appearance?
It’s a no-brainer that it starts with you. Your kids will get their cues on how to treat others by watching and listening to you. If you put down others who are different, they most likely will too.
But even if you are setting a good example, they may still be unsure how to deal with differences. Here’s some thoughts on helping them deal with team mates who are different.
- Ask them what is different about that person and why it bothers them. Acknowledge their observations and then ask, what is the same as you and this person? Help them see that even though they are different from each other, they also have a lot in common. Encourage them to focus on what they share, what unites them, rather than what separates them.
- Help them see that different is good. Different makes life interesting. How boring would it be if we were all exactly alike? If we were a bunch of human robots who looked the same, played the same, acted the same, or talked the same? Not a very interesting world.
- Encourage them to look at their team mate’s character, their heart–not their outward appearance. I know this is hard to do, it’s hard even for adults. But if we can start teaching our children when they are young to look beneath the surface of a person, then we are giving them tools to help them learn to get along with others as they get older. Seek to understand is the phrase spoken often in our home.
- Teach them to stand up for what’s right. MLK Jr. said, Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way. Our kids need to know that looking the other way when someone is being hurt or put down is the coward’s way out.