parenting, mindful parenting, tolerance, racial, gender differences, caste and creed, kids behaviour

Is it time to extinguish the darkness of prejudice?

Mindful Parenting is the need of the hourAs part of my post-motherhood early morning “me time” routine, I was studying and trying to finish as many online lectures as I could, before our home awakens and rather quickly transforms into a mad rush to get everyone out by a particular time. As I was about to finish an interesting lecture, I came across a study conducted by Prof. Paul Connolly in Northern Ireland. The study analysed how children as young as three begin to internalise racial, religious and ethnic differences, and how they start to form patterns and ascribe meanings to these differences which reflects in the choices they make early on – for example, the friends they choose. This jumped out at me, especially as a mother of twin toddlers. I know that children internalise a lot from very early on – as early as infancy – but to begin to form patterns, even negative ones, especially with respect to differences of ethnicity, got me alarmed to put it very mildly.

The armed struggle and the bloody conflict of Northern Ireland, which spanned over 25 years, was a particularly interesting setting for the study because it is a rare example of how a young child’s mind processes ethnic identities where ethnicity is not marked by apparent physical appearances such as colour, but are more cultural, political and religious differences.

Mindful Parenting is the need of the hourSo where are these cues originating from in the minds of such young children, for them to form patterns regarding ‘US’ vs ‘THEM’? It is clearly the adults around them who are unconsciously (mostly), through their conversations and actions, passing these subtle and at times not so subtle messages. The verbal, and more importantly the nonverbal messages, were triggering the “spot the differences” reaction in them, and in extreme cases “spot the enemy”!

In the Indian context, where there are various lines of divide (geographical, religious, gender, colour, social, class, caste, creed) that run very deep even today (or should I say especially today), it got me thinking as to what are my conversations and non-verbal cues that may be influencing my children. Consequently, what are my toddlers internalising?

As most parents and educators would concur, mouthing one thing to kids and acting in a completely contradicting manner doesn’t work with kids, we just cannot fake it! While I say this, I also truly believe that the majority of parents and educators come from a place of love and have the well-being of their child at heart. Despite this, we may unintentionally pass these nonverbal messages, simply because our own brains are wired to behave and react in a certain manner. So, unless we start questioning ourselves and being more mindful about these patterns, we will only end up passing these prejudices to another generation, albeit unintended.

So, can the dawn of 2020 begin with a concerted action for a purpose that certainly appears to be the need of the hour? I am wondering if we would want to pause and consider more mindfulness not just for us as a human and how we live our life, but more so for our children – what I would like to term it as mindful parenting. Can we make an attempt to walk the talk, if we truly wish for them to learn differently from what we did, especially with respect to matters of gender diversity, person of colour, sexual preference, differences in religion, the manner in which staff that work at our homes and schools are treated and their social backgrounds? Are we ready to discuss, when we have to, issues relating to the deep caste divide that exists, and explain to them what it means and has meant for centuries? Or are we just going to lower our volume when our children enter the room where the adults discuss these “uncomfortable topics” (if we discuss them at all) - because learn they will and model we will, whether consciously or unconsciously. The choice is purely ours!

Can we be the true light-bearers for our children – after all in their eyes we are already stars that shine the brightest!”

Comments (1)

Hiral Kaup Posted on Feb 12, 2020

Very well written.


Pallavi Poojari Mohindra

A Chartered Accountant by education, M&A consultant by profession, an artist by natural disposition, a captivating storyteller, a fierce humanist and a compulsive traveller, Pallavi lives in a paralle

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