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OVERCOMING STEREOTYPES IN EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

By: Putu Desy Krisma Yani


“In social psychology, a stereotype is a fixed, over-generalized belief about a particular group or class of people” (Simply Psychology) When we stereotype, we conclude that a person has a group of characteristics and abilities that we assume all members of this group all have. Regardless of the form, stereotypes can have negative consequences if they are used as benchmarks in interpreting a behaviour.

The most thought-provoking idea of stereotype is that most people’s perceptions are one-sided and are shaped by the media and their childhood experiences. The main consequence of this is that if people know only one story, they cannot perceive members of other nations as equals.

Stereotypes can be contagious because they become compositions or stories that are hereditary to refer to certain groups or ethnicities but the truth cannot be accounted for. All forms of stereotypes are not necessarily true, there are even stereotypes that are not true at all. Stereotypes quickly create negative perceptions in the area of the child's neuroscience, making it very difficult to turn the child's thinking back in the right direction for their healthy development.

Overcoming stereotypes in early childhood education is essential for raising children who would recognize all people around them as equals and treat them with respect.In order to develop healthy self-esteem, they must learn how to interact fairly and productively with different types of people. Naturally, children's curiosity will lead them to ask questions: "Why is her skin so dark?" "Why does he speak funny?" We may hide our own negative feelings, or hope that children simply won't notice, but our avoidance actually teaches children that some differences are not acceptable. We must face our own biased attitudes and change them in order to help foster all children's growth.The best way to do this is by considering the diverse contexts and experiences of the community especially in the family and incorporating them into the school curriculum.

What parents and teachers can do:

  1. Recognize that because we live in a society where many stereotypes exist, we must counteract them -- or else we will support them through our silence.

  2. At home or at school, give children messages that deliberately contrast stereotypes by providing books, dolls, toys, wall decorations, TV programs, and records that show: men and women in nontraditional roles, people of color in leadership positions, people with disabilities doing activities familiar to children, and various types of families and family activities.

  3. Show no stereotype in the friends, doctors, teachers, and other service providers that you choose, nor in the stores where you shop.

  4. Remember, what you do is as important as what you say.Make it a firm rule that a person's appearance is never an acceptable reason for teasing or rejecting them. Immediately step in if you hear or see your child behave in such a way.

  5. Talk positively about each child's physical characteristics and cultural heritage. And, help children learn the differences between feelings of superiority and those of self-esteem and pride in their own heritage.

  6. Provide opportunities for children to interact with other children who are racially/culturally different from themselves and with people who have various disabilities.

  7. Respectfully listen to and answer children's questions about themselves and others. Don't ignore, change the subject, or in any way make the child think she is bad for asking such a question.

  8. Teach children how to challenge stereotypes about who they are. Give them tools to confront those who act biased against them.

  9. Use accurate and fair images in contrast to stereotypes, and encourage children to talk about the differences. Help them to think critically about what they see in books, movies, greeting cards, comics, and on TV.

  10. Let children know that unjust things can be changed. Encourage children to challenge bias, and involve children in taking action on issues relevant to their lives.

Building a healthy self-identity is a process that continues all our lives. Help children get a head start by teaching them to resist stereotypes and to value the differences between people as much as the similarities.



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