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Teaching your Child About Discrimination Using God’s Path, not victimhood

Paul Collier

 

I am the father of a Seven year old girl.  I take very seriously my commitment, my role in her life to be as godly a Father to her as I possibly can.  I understand that I am her earthly father and that her Father of Fathers is The Lord Himself.  I am a steward of this daughter of Christ.  I love my daughter as much as I can love anyone.  My wife and my daughter are the two most important people in my life.  Only God himself is more important.

I say all this so that you understand the perspective I am writing from as I describe to you the situation that occurred today with my daughter, the responses from two very close people in my life, and my confusion about what my role, as the steward of a daughter of Christ is.

Recently my daughter’s first grade teacher had to leave her classroom due to a pregnancy.  She will not be returning this year, so the classroom was replaced by a new teacher, a man.  I have asked my daughter on numerous occasions how she likes the new teacher and she has always said she liked him but I could sense, knowing my daughter, I wasn’t getting the full picture.

I pressed her a bit today on the subject, telling her it looked like, to me, there was some issue there she wasn’t talking to me about.  Finally she came clean, she told me that this teacher seems to prefer the boys to the girls, that he gets them to do all the tasks, like cleaning up, clapping erasers, etc.  My daughter is extremely servant oriented, and it is part of her learning about  Christ and the servant model he sets for us all that she is this way, but beyond the teaching, my daughter is truly gifted as a servant.

For her, not being able to do this servant’s work is very troubling.  For her to make an observation that the teacher seems to only pick boys was very troubling to me.  I am not in any way, shape, or form, suggesting that this teacher is, in fact, discriminating against girls.  I understand perception, feelings do not always match reality, so the teacher himself is NOT the issue in what I am going to talk about.

My council to her was that she might have seen an example of discrimination, but she might not.  There might be other reasons she wasn’t called on to do the work she likes to do for her teachers.  I did tell her, since, in my opinion, this seemed like an issue my daughter was very troubled by, that sometimes girls are looked down on because they are girls, that when that happens we call this DISCRIMINATION.  I defined discrimination as “treating people differently because of the color of their skin, their sex, meaning boy or girl, and their beliefs”.  I told her that discrimination is wrong and not how God would have us live our lives.

I suggested to her that she talk to her teacher and tell her how she feels, to not point a finger at him, but to just share with him how she feels, that she likes to do volunteer work for the teacher and she feels he doesn’t call on her because she’s not one of the boys.  I told her that in life we must be assertive in the face of discrimination and this was one of the reasons I was raising her to be a Warrior princess, so that she can be strong when times like these arise

I did not elaborate at the time that I want her to be assertive for a whole range of reasons, not just to ‘fight discrimination’, however, she has had much teaching on how assertiveness prepares her to be a better warrior for  Christ , including being assertive to protect the weak,  being assertive to stand by your convictions, your faith, etc.

I described this event to two very close people in my life, my brother and my sister.  I don’t remember exactly how I described it to them, so something may have been lost in the translation, but I believe that, in essence, they got the same version of events that I described above.

I closed by making a request of my sister.  She is a woman who has faced real discrimination for decades as a woman leader in Christ who is constantly invalidated and/or dismissed because of being a woman.  My request was that she talk to my daughter about how she has confronted discrimination.  My sister is a great example of someone who is assertive and confident, a strength she derives from her faith, and able to get the work done even when men, and sometimes women, try to dismiss or invalidate her.

I expected an excited response back but I got very different reactions from both my brother and my sister.  My brother seemed to be telling me my daughter was too young to be introduced to concepts of discrimination, that doing so would actually create an imbalanced view of the world where she might see discrimination in everything (ie- become a liberal, radical feminist).

My sister responded that coupling assertiveness with discrimination was wrong because it creates a negative impact on the whole concept of assertiveness,  that she wouldn’t talk to my daughter because she feared it might also create an imbalance in how my daughter sees the world.

Both my brother and my sister greatly disappointed me and also made me very angry.  They disappointed me because they seemed unwilling to help me prepare my daughter for the realities of a discriminatory world.  They disappointed me because I did not expect them to have what I felt was a very condescending and self-limiting perspective on children at the age of seven.

They made me angry because, in my mind, if I walked out the logic of what they were suggesting, I was actually doing damage to my daughter, instead of exhorting her to excellence in the Lord.  Their understanding of how to teach children about the realities of this world was fundamentally different from how I have been preparing my daughter for this world.  If they were right, I have been a terrible steward who is doing more damage to my daughter than good.

I sought research advice from my beloved great uncle, Google (I bet you all have that same great uncle).  I was first looking for cognitive analyses of childhood development.  Piaget was the prime contender.  I remembered him from my college days and my brother also sent me a link to his ‘concrete stage’ of development, which is where my daughter, age-wise, fits into.

 I copied this section:

Logic:

Piaget determined that children in the concrete operational stage were fairly good at the use of inductive logic. Inductive logic involves going from a specific experience to a general principle. On the other hand, children at this age have difficulty using deductive logic, which involves using a general principle to determine the outcome of a specific event.

Reversibility:

One of the most important developments in this stage is an understanding of reversibility, or awareness that actions can be reversed. An example of this is being able to reverse the order of relationships between mental categories. For example, a child might be able to recognize that his or her dog is a Labrador, that a Labrador is a dog, and that a dog is an animal.

My interpretation from this is that children can understand general principles, like discrimination, if they are tied to a concrete event, which they were.  They can also understand that actions, concepts, behaviors can be, in the words of the description above, reversed.

So, for me, Piaget did not seem to invalidate my notion that my daughter was equipped to understand the concept of discrimination and how she can pro-actively address discrimination, or perceived discrimination.  My daughter has been taught numerous times about the godly way to deal with ‘conflict’, that we do so in a redemptive manner where we are seeking resolution and understand, not to accuse and tear down people.

My belief in her understanding of such an ‘abstract’ concept comes from the way she deals with conflict with her father, me, and her mother.  Certainly she can sometimes be unredemptive in her judgments, just as I can, but her overall pattern demonstrates an understanding of the concepts.

What I did not get from Piaget was how to balance out the reality of discrimination with the ‘victim mentality’ of the liberal, progressive mindset.  I seek to make my daughter aware of the reality of the world, and will continue to do so as concrete events present opportunities to do so.

So, once again, I went to Uncle Google and was troubled by what I found- there was plenty of advice on how to introduce concepts of discrimination with your children, including games that demonstrated exactly what discrimination was and how you can confront it.  For the most part, the examples and the games would be fine for me to teach my daughter and play with my daughter.

But every site I went to on this subject all had one theme in common- they were all liberal, victim-mentality representations of the world.  I could not, try as I might, find good examples of how to teach my daughter about discrimination from conservative or even Christ sites.

So I am left to wonder why this voice is not out there, the voice that acknowledges discrimination that seeks to prepare our kids for this reality, but does so in a way that does not train our kids to look for bogeymen behind every bush, or create a sense of entitlement or victimhood.

I could not get such council from my brother and my sister because they seem to fundamentally disagree with me about covering the concept of discrimination with my daughter, or at least in the way that I did.  So far, seeking truth, at least hoping I am seeking truth, I have not found evidence that would support their concepts, and still feel strongly that I mostly did the right thing for my daughter, though I now wish I had stressed a few things I missed, like making sure assertiveness was not overly coupled with the fight against discrimination, like emphasizing that just because we FEEL discriminated against isn’t always the case, and even talking to her about how, despite the injustices of the world, God gives us all we need to do his will, that no man, no woman, can stand against his way and his path.

When she comes home from school today I will add those elements (and maybe update this post).  I hope and pray that I do not have some critical blind spot and I have asked for forgiveness from the Lord, and have it already, for treating my brother and sister like enemies because I did not like what they said.

Though I still do not agree with them, I know my brother and sister both love me and they were speaking out of support for my fatherhood, my stewardship, not out of hostility.    I do still disagree with them but I also seek truth wherever it leads, and right now I am not completely sure I have this truth. 

It is disappointing to me that the only group of people addressing the reality of discrimination against women, really, discrimination at all, are the victimhood people of the progressive left.  I myself do not have a clear understanding of how to present a balanced perspective between the realities of discrimination and the responsibilities that we, as children of God, have to put our faith in him and charge forward no matter what, without playing at victimhood.  Therefore,  I cannot be that voice.

So where is that voice?  If you know, please email me personally at paulgcollier@gmail.com

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