My favorite chapter in Bob Goff’s book, Love Does, is chapter 10, “The Interviews.” In it, Goff talks about the aftermath of September 11, 2001. Not wanting his children to hear the news from anyone but himself, he picked them up from school so that he could be the first to talk to them about what happened.
During the conversation, he asked the kids this question, “If you had five minutes in front of a group of leaders, what would you ask them to help make sense of life, faith, hope, and the events that are unfolding around us?”
Adam, age 7, the youngest, said he would ask the world leaders to come to his house. He thought having the leaders over would facilitate better understanding between them and they would become friends.
Richard, the next oldest, said he would ask each of the leaders what they were hoping for, thinking if they each knew what the other was hoping for, then perhaps, they could start hoping for the same thing.
Lindsey, the oldest, said if the world leaders couldn’t come to the Goffs’ house, then why not go to theirs for a visit, ask them what they were hoping for, and do a video interview with the leaders and share the video with other leaders.
They unanimously voted to start sending letters to the leaders of different countries, and many responded. And so began their great adventure!
Why It’s Important to Raise Our Kids to Value Others
Those kids had a wonderful idea! When you get to know someone, go to their homes, and spend time with them, oftentimes, you find you have a lot in common, and that can change how you feel about them and reveal a lot of misconceptions you didn’t know you had.
Stepping out in faith to do something that you have never done before takes a lot of courage. How much faith and courage would it take for us to start an adventure just like this with neighbors and others not like us? How crazy fun would that be?
What if we began with our kids when they were young, teaching them to accept their neighbors exactly as they are, to appreciate them with all of their uniquenesses (yes, I made that word up!), and teaching them that God created each one of us in His own image and all that He created was good? What would our world look like if we taught our kids to value others?
Getting to know another’s perspective makes life so much more interesting, and it teaches us compassion and empathy. When we teach our kids words like unique and special, justice and love, kindness and grace, it helps us to model edification and unity instead of division and fear.
I read a story about a little 3-year-old white girl and her mom standing in the checkout line in a grocery store. All of a sudden, the child, while pointing, said very excitedly to her mom, “Look, Mom! There’s a brown lady!” Her mom very calmly looked over at the lady and said, “Oh, my! Isn’t she beautiful?!” Way to go, Mom!
What if these were the life lessons our kids learned from us on a daily basis?
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it” doesn’t only ask the question “what they will do when they grow up” but “who will they be?”
How We Can Raise Our Kids to Value Others
So, how can we raise our kids to value others? Here are four tips to help get your started.
1. Do some research and reflect.
First, we need to do a little work ourselves, processing how we are feeling. We need to ask God who searches us and knows our hearts (Psalm 139:23-24) to help us see our own blind spots, so we won’t pass those along to our kids. Then ask God to assist us in removing those blind spots and show us how to be empathetic, compassionate, and respectful toward all other people.
Here is a great assessment that can help you explore where you might need to grow.
2. Be open to having meaningful conversations and answering questions.
Second, listen to your kids. If they are troubled by something they’ve seen or heard, validate their feelings and ask what’s bothering them. Listen without interrupting. Let them lead the conversation.
With younger kids, be concrete. Don’t give them more information than they can handle and don’t feel that you always need to have the right answer. Extend grace to yourself. Tell them you don’t know the answer, but you would like to explore their questions with them.
To help answer their questions, take your kids to the library or bookstore and search for online resources together. Here are several books I like on the topic of diversity:
- I Am Human: A Book of Empathy by Susan Verde
- ColorFull: Celebrating the Colors God Gave Us by Dorena Williamson
- A Kids Book About Racism by Jelani Memory (for children ages 5 years and up)
- I’m Like You, You’re Like Me by Cindy Gainer
- The Loudest Duck by Laura A. Liswood (for adults)
And always remember to pray and seek God for wisdom and discernment.
Make your home a safe environment where questions can be asked. Always leave the door open for them to come to you when they need to. If they are scared or confused by something they’ve heard on social media, TV, or overheard at school, assure them that you will keep them safe and protected and seek with them to understand what is going on. Pray for them and with them.
And understand, this is an ongoing conversation. Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint. It is a process that will never end. The goal here is progress.
3. Show your kids how to value and treat others with respect.
Third, kids model what they see. We all have prejudices, fears, and biases. We all see and react to differences in others. And we all need to be willing to change and show through our actions how to care for others.
Help the next generation to see the intrinsic value in every person they meet. We are all very different in the way God made us—in our skin color, in our genetic makeup, and in our culture. That’s something to be celebrated.
Be intentional about the books you read, how you interact with all people, be careful how you speak to and about others. Enroll your kids in sports, gymnastics, art, and other programs that have diversified teams and classes. Get to know parents of other races. Invite them to your home. When it feels right, share with them books that you believe represent your culture and ask them for books that represent theirs. Respect them for their opinions and share yours. It will add value to your relationship and value to your life.
And it will show our kids how to strengthen their relationships and be more compassionate to people who don’t look like them. Our kids are watching us. We’ve got to get this right.
Ask yourself: Do I model the belief with my words and actions that God made each of us unique and beautiful even in our differences? Do I demonstrate respect and honor towards those I disagree with? How diverse is my circle of friends and the people I associate with? How can I widen that circle for my family?
I’ve heard our senior pastor, Jeff Jones, tell the story about how to train others to tell the difference between real and counterfeit money. Instructors show them real money first. They touch it, feel it, and observe the face and weight of the paper, the ultraviolet glow, and the watermark. They are trained over and over again how to tell that the dollar bill is real, so that, when they see a counterfeit, it is immediately recognizable.
When we show our kids how to care for, be kind to, and love others daily, they will understand the difference immediately when others are not doing the same and recognize what they are doing is wrong.
4. Look to God for strength and help.
And finally, recognize our strength comes from God.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” — Ephesians 6:10-13
Know the battle isn’t ours alone. Much more is happening behind the scenes that we can only imagine. Pray daily for God to protect your family, give you discernment, and encourage you and your kids to reach out to others. Pray for wisdom to know when to speak up and stand for and with those who are oppressed. Pray that we will be amazing models of love for others that our kids will want to imitate.
And just like the Goff family, seek ways to get to know others who look different than you, and maybe, just maybe, we will find that we all basically hoping for the same things!
Let your adventure begin!
Stay tuned to our blog for more resources on parenting during the pandemic.