Prior judgment is a natural trait in humans: when we meet someone new, even with no pre-conceptions of any kind, we start judging from their body language. Adding pre-conceptions on physical characteristics to that judgment, even before we make eye contact is very powerful. These judgments can predict meaningful life outcomes, not only in the relationships we engage in, but outcomes such as work, work promotions and life paths.
Parents do shape their child’s pre-conception of people from other groups. These generalization of a group’s characteristics is usually negative and leads to discrimination. But it doesn’t have to be that way. As parents we can influence our children into the positives of being different, the advantages of diversity, and the benefits that emerge from learning different things in life.
When a child gets warnings about people from a different group which include a stereotype, which is a generalization of characteristics of the people from that other group, the child will avoid by all means to relate with any member of this group. Preventing him or her to establish positive relationships based on misconceptions and generalizations that don’t necessarily apply.
As much as it is our obligation to teach our children to be safe, it is very important how we do this. With the culture of being afraid of the other, derived from the news we get through the media, we tend to categorize people that are different as bad, generalizing foul characteristics of a few to all in the unknown group. So when we warn our children from the “evil ones”, we often make the mistake of warning them from all people in other groups. This has the potential to make them live in fear, to be defensive and even aggressive towards the others, limiting their relationships, their life and their ability to be happy and successful. Exactly the opposite of what we intend for our children.
Help your child to create positive relationships, acknowledge your influence in them, and provide the right message with your wisdom and love.