Earlier last week, my Facebook page was inundated with ‘shares’ of a video showingdiscrimination at the 2016 Rio Olympics. The video showed sn Egyptian athlete refusing to shake his Israeli opponent’s hand after their judo match.
The video was under a minute long, but it was powerful.
The Israeli won the match, but for the purpose of this blog, these results are insignificant.
What was significant was the fact that the Egyptian athlete would not shake the hand of his opponent. He showed neither sportsman-ship nor common courtesy.
It made me really angry to see such juvenile behaviour. On television. In front of billions of people.
There they were, some of the top athletes in the world, one of whom was behaving like a child whose candy had just been taken away.
How did we get to this point? How is it that the International Olympic Committee is even tolerating such behaviour?
Are there no behavioural expectations imposed on athletes competing at the Olympic
Games which need to be adhered to? And if these courtesies are not adhered to, should there not be grounds for automatic disqualification?
After all, the world is watching. Our children are watching. Our children are witnessing these disrespectful behaviours, and unfortunately learning from them.
Do parents not already have a difficult enough time explaining discrimination and bigotry and teaching children acceptance? Do we really need to worry about such behaviours being modeled at the highest levels of competition?
The topic of discrimination is an important one and one which needs attention in any household.
At some point in our lives, we will all most likely experience it to some degree.
And our children will always have questions. And I believe that it’s important for parents to have an open discussion about discrimination, even if we do not have all the answers.
So how can parents talk to their children about such discrimination? Is there a right way to broach the subject when we ourselves really do not understand the basis of it or the reason for it?
Although not all encompassing, parents can certainly begin the discrimination discussion as follows:
1) Parents need to understand that discussing discrimination is not a ‘one shot deal’. It is a discussion which is ongoing and necessary whenever questions arise about it. Similar to discussions about sex or drugs, which can often be uncomfortable between parents and their children, it is important for parents to reassure their children that they are free to discuss discrimination whenever the need arises.
2) Diversity is a good thing and should be celebrated. We can teach our children to appreciate the differences between people instead of being fearful of them. And instead of discriminating against them. In our family alone, we are comprised of a wonderful mix of different cultures and ethnic backgrounds. It’s who we are, and we embrace it. Our children are obviously aware of these differences, realize that it is what makes our family unique, and we would not have it any other way.
3) We can educate our children by using natural opportunities to do so. For instance, a television show’s main characters may be a same-sex couple. Lets acknowledge what it is, call a spade a spade, and use the opportunity to open up a discussion.
Let’s not mince words, and let’s be frank with our children. Let’s talk to them about the differences that exist between people in this world; not in a way where one ‘type’ is better than an other, but rather that there are many types of people who make the world interesting.
The lessons our children learn come from us, and from all the other behaviours of others which they witness.
Unfortunately we cannot always control that which our children see on television or read about on social media.
But with any luck, our children will absorb and internalize the hard-core lessons of acceptance which are modelled for them at home. It’s up to us to insure they receive the correct messages about discrimination.
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