Step Teach How to Recognize Stereotypes and Biases

Before your kid is willing to change his narrow-minded attitude, he must understand what a stereotype is, how to recognize one, and why they can be harmful. These next ideas help your kid learn those important three parts:

• Define stereotypes. You might say, "A stereotype is a big sweeping idea we believe about a whole group of people or subject area. Usually the beliefs are wrong because they are not true about every member of the group or every instance about the subject.They are also unfair because the person believing the stereotype makes a judgment without getting all the facts." Point out that if the comment has words such as "You always . . .,""You never . . .,""They always ...," or "They're all ...," chances are that what follows is a biased stereotype.

• Listen for stereotypes. A fun way to help your kid recognize stereotypes is by listening for them together on tele vision. Turn it into a game by trying to count how many biased statements you hear in a set time. As soon as one is detected, yell out,"Stereotype!"The biased comment must then be repeated: "The reporter said: 'All teachers in Los Angeles schools are bad.' Stereotype!"

• Give examples of harmful biases. Our culture is saturated with biased views that can erode our kids' attitudes and perpetuate narrow-minded views. Provide your kid with a few examples, and then discuss that although they seem harmless, they can be quite hurtful and cloud our views. Here are a few: Teenagers only about care themselves. Adults are out of it. Boys who play football are stupid.The Polish are dumb. Cheerleaders are "easy." Girls are poor at math.Then ask your child to give evidence of why it isn't completely true—for example, "Jenna and Kara are really good at math."

• Play, "Prove it!" Encourage family members that whenever anyone in your household utters a sweeping stereotype, another member should gently counter the person's view by responding,"Prove it!" For example, if your kid says, "Jocks are so stupid," a sibling could retort, "I beg to differ: I know five guys on my football team who are in all the accelerated classes."

• Use the media. Film, advertising, music, television, literature, and jokes are major perpetrators of stereotypes.Ask-ing your child questions that point out biases as they occur is often beneficial in helping him recognize the misrepresentation. Here are a few examples that show how: Newspapers: "I've read a number of stories lately about police brutality. Do you think people might get the impression that all police are unfair and beat up minorities? What do you think?" Nightly news: "The news always seems to be showing blacks as aggressive and caught doing bad things. Do you think they are reporting the news fairly?"

Literature: "This is another story in which the stepmother is wicked. Is that true for all stepmothers? If a kid keeps reading stories like this, what do you think her attitude about stepmoms will be?"

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