Black History Month

Preventing Prejudice in Children By Valuing Differences

The terrific graphic to the left is from the Waterloo Public Library, 451 Commercial St., Waterloo, IA 50701

The article content below can be found at

February is Black History Month. The children will be learning about famous African Americans and civil rights in school. But, this week, we would like to honor Black History Month by discussing how nannies and au pairs can help raise children that appreciate differences and resist bias and prejudice.

As much as we would like to be a color-blind, a gender-blind, and an age-blind society, we aren’t. So don’t ignore the issues of racism and sexism (and ageism and other prejudices) just because they make you uncomfortable.

Children learn their attitudes from us — the adults around them. Caregivers are essential in helping children to resist biases and prejudice. You can begin to battle the influence of bias in our culture by teaching the children in your care to value differences. One way to start is by encouraging the children to appreciate their own uniqueness. You can introduce children to the notion of differences by starting with their own family. Then you can compare your own family to your charge’s family.

1. Do different members of their family have different color hair (black, brown, blond, red, gray, white)?

2. Do they have different textures of hair (curly, straight, thick, wispy, bald)?

3. Do they have different color eyes (brown, blue, hazel)?

4. Are there differences between your family and your charge’s family?

Acknowledging and valuing the diverse physical traits within their own family (or their family and your family) can help children appreciate diversity.

In teaching a child respect and tolerance for different people, start with concepts they’ll understand. African American? Latino? No. Toddlers do not understand these adult labels. Instead, start by talking about gender and skin color — the real color: not black and white, but brown, tan, beige, and pink. Then you can talk about the shape of eyes, the color and texture of hair, and other obvious differences.

How is the child special? She’s two-years old. She has a particular hair color, eye color, and skin color. Her ancestors have a specific cultural heritage. Sharing stories of people — family members, historical figures, or contemporary role models — from her ethnic group of whom you feel proud can also build an appreciation of your child’s cultural heritage. The child also has a distinctive name, which may reflect some family history or cultural background.

Defining the ways in which the child is unique or special is a great way to encourage her to value differences because toddlers love talking and learning about themselves. By talking in a positive way about the toddler’s physical characteristics and cultural heritage, you will help her build a positive sense of self. And if she learns to value what makes her different from others, your toddler will be more open to the notion of appreciating the differences of others as well.

Tomorrow: President’s Day
Tuesday: Respecting Differences for Black History Month by Be the Best Nanny Newsletter


  1. Super, terrific article! Nannies are essential to teaching children to respect others. What better way to teach children to respect others than nannies and au pairs who are often from a different culture and often a different race than the children they care for 60 hours per week! Start with yourself! If you respect others the children will follow your lead.Imani OkoroMiami FL

  2. Thank you for this. I am a different religion from the children I am nannying for. We learn much from one another and mostly we are the same.Manuela RodriguezHouston TX

  3. Excellent topic. I have a really big problem, I am very concerned about the family I babysit for. I don't like the father. He is a racist. I am trying to stomach him and help the kids learn to appreciate others by my example. I probably won't be able to work with him much longer due to his racist bigoted attitude.

  4. To the comment above about working for a racist dad, I would look for a new job. You cannot teach an old dog new tricks. We work so closely with the parents it would be hard to work with someone like that.It is great you want to influence the kids in a positive non racist way but you won't be able to change the parents. Good for you for trying.I realize we all don't like everything about the family members we work for. But some things are intolerable.Part-Time NannyPart-Time TutorTonya, Tucson Arizona

  5. For the nanny working for a racist father I think you should start looking for other jobs too. I guess this is the kind of thing you can't ask in a nanny interview or always sense during an interview. Be happy you haven't been discriminated against by him. We are an unregulated industry and it would be hard to prove a case of racism in court I think. I still groups like "Christian" nannies shouldn't exist. I don't think you could have AT&T hire only hire Christian employees. But that's just me.

  6. I don't think the father will discriminate the sitter above because he hired her. Had he been racist/biased about her race, gender, culture, ethnicity he wouldn't have hired her in the first place. Best to find another job.

  7. For lady working with racist dad: while interviewing with families ask to speak to former employees before accepting the job to make sure the parents aren't prejudiced or racists.

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