The celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his civil rights accomplishments is coming up. While King’s actual date of birth is January 15th, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act has set certain public holidays to be celebrated on the nearest Monday. So we will celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, January 17 this year (2022). There has been a good bit of controversy about the celebration of this day over the years, and some states have designated it as Civil Rights Day instead. But no matter where you stand on the celebration of this day, the idea of removing prejudice and accepting all humans as human is universally important. So as we approach Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, let’s look at how we can live out an attitude of acceptance in our own families.
There has been so much out there over the last few years about the ongoing inequalities in race relations. And there is still a lot of tension and disagreement about it all. Many of us feel helpless to change systemic issues. And so we have settled on being conscious of our own attitudes, trying to see how we can change things in our own everyday lives. While this may feel too small, it’s definitely a necessary place to start.
Talk to your kids about accepting people
As we teach and lead our children, it’s important to show them how to live out this attitude of acceptance. Young children tend to be very open and accepting people. Children can be shocked to learn about race issues when they are young. But they really can handle learning about tough issues. And even if you aren’t ready to show that part of the world to your kids, you can teach an attitude of acceptance for all people.
You may have noticed that as kids get older, they can tend to become exclusive in their dealings with other kids. Some kids are more likely to be exclusive than others, and this is just a personality issue. Overall, it’s really a pretty human issue. But we as parents can head this off from the very beginning.
For example, I have tried to encourage my kids to accept everyone. We have regularly talked through encounters with people who are different. When they’ve asked loud, awkward questions in public, I’ve tried to handle those questions with care right there on the spot. It’s hard most of the time! But the people in question usually smile at my efforts. More importantly, my kids have learned that differences are nothing to be afraid of.
Keep empowering them to be accepting
Fast forward a few years, to elementary and middle school times. My kids started to encounter friends who set up little “you aren’t allowed in” situations. There were special clubs, member only areas, all with an attitude of “only me and my chosen special people”. At first, my kids mostly shrugged and thought it was stupid. But as it continued, ongoing rejection from their peers, there was some real hurt. However, because we’ve always talked through this kind of stuff, they knew they could talk about it and ask for advice. We were able to talk about how things can often be in this world, and how to handle it.
And so my kids remembered how loved they were instead. They put effort into other friendships and stopped trying to get into the exclusive areas. They removed the power of the exclusive friends, and those exclusive girls were left to themselves. Eventually, my daughter’s exclusive friends invited her in. She was happy and surprised, but then, one of her other friends came and was rejected. My daughter immediately stated that she didn’t want to be there then, and she went with her other friend. She was still welcome in the exclusive group, and so the next time, she just kept allowing everyone else in before they could be rejected.
And do you know what? Those girls stopped their exclusive nonsense. All the little girls started playing together. Sometimes they would end up in different groups, but none of them were exclusive. Each of those girls knew that they were welcome among one another, and they had each learned to be welcoming.
Our support as parents makes a big difference
My daughter broke down an ugly system! Her kindness and acceptance of others was contagious. And it took away the power that her other friends imagined that they had. But she had a good support system behind her. She knew that she didn’t need their acceptance, and we continuously talked through the situation as she went through it.
So parents, let’s empower our kids to live out an attitude of acceptance. Let’s fill them with strength and love, and remind them of what’s true and what is just an illusion. Let’s help them break down the exclusive systems in their own lives. Then we will be raising children who will make a difference in the big world too.
As you teach your kids about living out an attitude of acceptance, remember that My Signing Time can help. Many of our shows have encouraging, empowering songs that stick with kids. Even in Baby Signing Time, we have an episode about being friends and the Shining Star Song, which tells kids how wonderful and valuable they are. And the rest of our shows reinforce caring, loving, and accepting other people. Plus, the free Signing Time Dictionary is always available to help you learn signs for all kinds of things. You can learn the signs for friend and invite and different. So watch the Shining Star Song for free here, and see if a My Signing Time digital subscription is right for your family.