One of the most fundamental aspects of Western Society is the inequalities that we live with. There are vast differences in money, education, ability and so forth. I don’t think children have any natural inherent understanding of this. Although, I do believe that they have a natural instinct which allows them to pin-point and capitalise on weakness. I think that it is fairly easy to deal with this instinct at Toddler age and prevent them from bullying those that are physically dis-advantaged compared to them. However, there are other areas which are hard to approach appropriately.
One of the areas which I have discussed here, is the concept of the value of money, however, how does one even begin to start to explain that some people may not have as much as you do, or more? Or that some people do not have the benefits of our standards of living. If anyone knows of any good pre-school books dealing with this subject, then please comment.
The whole issue came to light the other day when Toddler boy spotted a homeless man going through a public bin looking for food. I assessed the situation and felt that as this was clearly someone who was homeless and not drunk, that it was appropriate to give him some money for his lunch. Which he courteously accepted and wandered into the shop to buy something. I then explained as best I could, that some people are not lucky enough to have homes to live in and mummy’s and daddy’s to look after them. This was hard because I didn’t want to frighten the little fella.
Inequalities in housing stock are not noticed by toddlers but inequalities in housing altogether are a different and a much more difficult area. The inequalities in standards of living across the world are yet another area, which in this age of global media require thought and consideration in your explanations to children.
Yes, there is an argument (Steven Biddulph) that you should shield your children from the news. However, I disagree with this, I think that its an important part of learning and understanding to see things like volcano’s, soldiers (provided the imagery isn’t too violent), famine and so forth. When you actually start looking at the news and considering the stories covered many of them are fundamentally geographical rather than other than violent. For us at least, much of the news provides good starting points for conversations based around the planet, buildings and to a certain extent hierarchy. However, clearly there are moments when you need to talk about inequality; that little girl doesn’t have any food because it wont grow where she lives and so her mummy and daddy find it hard to give her any, and so forth. It’s these conversations which are so difficult, and which I don’t wish to avoid.
I have a feeling that there are many biblical stories which probably would assist me with this one and a children’s bible could be the answer. However, I have a wobbly relationship with my faith and I do not wish to go down this route if at all possible. Yes, its tempting to answer that inevitable question; why? With another question, but this is not the way that toddler’s learn. I have considered basic role-playing, but I think this may be flawed as it would undermine the person or thing viewed as less advantaged. I do not wish to do this, as I want to teach a little bit of understanding and awareness.
Perhaps I am over-analysing this idea and the need to even start to thinking about this with toddlers, what are your thoughts?