5 Mistakes To Avoid When Teaching Your Child About Other Cultures

Fostering a child’s interest in other cultures is a wonderful way to promote diversity and broaden their worldview.

In fact, raising culturally intelligent children is a practice that aligns with Jesus’ teachings on loving our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:39).

By teaching our children to engage with different cultures sensitively and empathetically, parents enable their kids to embrace the rich tapestry of humanity, recognizing each individual as a unique creation of God while fostering unity through Christ’s love.

However, there are certain pitfalls that parents should be mindful of to ensure that their efforts are both respectful and effective.

By steering clear of these mistakes, parents can create a nurturing environment where their child’s curiosity about different cultures can truly flourish.


1. Superficial Experiences

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It is imperative that we avoid merely scratching the surface of a culture’s complexities.

An example of a superficial experience is attending a cultural festival, but only focusing on taking photos of the exotic-looking goods and costumes, without seeking to understand the history, traditions, or significance behind them.

This kind of approach to culture hinders genuine understanding for our kids and perpetuates shallow perspectives. It can also lead to misunderstandings, reinforce biases, and fail to foster the empathy needed for meaningful cross-cultural relationships.

The Bible encourages believers to cultivate a deep and genuine understanding of others, rather than reducing individuals to simplified or judgmental perspectives.

Romans 12:16, for example, encourages humility and open-mindedness, urging believers to engage with others without preconceived notions or biased attitudes.

By encouraging deeper exploration of history, traditions, values, and the diverse aspects of cultures – whether through research or by asking intentional questions – parents can help their children develop a more holistic and respectful appreciation for diversity around them.


2. Cultural Appropriation

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Cultural appropriation occurs when elements of one culture are borrowed or imitated by individuals from another culture, often without proper understanding or respect for the cultural context.

Parents should actively guide their children to steer clear of cultural appropriation by helping their child differentiate between respectful appreciation and inappropriate appropriation.

For instance, if a child is interested in wearing a traditional dress from a different culture, parents could ask them: What do you know about this clothing? Would wearing this clothing be respectful? And, How would you feel if someone wore clothing from our culture without understanding it?

While the concept of cultural appropriation as we understand it today is not explicitly addressed in the Bible, the Bible does contain principles that emphasize respect, humility, and love for others (see, for example, Philippians 2:3-4).

If parents follow this principle, they will empower their children to engage with different cultures without causing harm or offending others.


3. Ignoring Their Questions

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When parents dismiss or ignore their children’s cultural questions, they risk missing a crucial opportunity to cultivate curiosity, understanding, and open-mindedness.

The Bible encourages parents to be attentive, patient, and responsive to their children’s questions and needs.

Ephesians 6:4 (NIV) states, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” This verse emphasizes the importance of nurturing and instructing children with patience and understanding.

A common cultural question that parents might avoid is when a child asks, “Why do people from [another culture] dress that way?”

Instead of brushing off the question, parents could reply, “That’s a great question! People from [that culture] have a rich history and unique traditions that influence the way they dress. Their clothing often reflects their values, climate, and special occasions. Let’s look up more information together to understand it better.”

This response encourages curiosity and research, showing the child that exploring cultural differences is welcomed and valued. It also sets the tone for open conversations and nurtures their intellectual growth and emotional development.


4. Ignoring Local Culture

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Understanding local customs, traditions, and history allows children to appreciate their roots and engage more meaningfully with the world around them.

Families can explore local culture by participating in community events, visiting historical sites, and engaging in local traditions.

For instance, they could attend festivals that celebrate local customs, arts, and cuisine. They might also take trips to local museums, historical landmarks, or cultural centers to learn about the history and heritage of their region.

Additionally, families can engage in volunteer activities that benefit their community, fostering a deeper connection to the local culture.

By actively participating in these activities, children can develop a strong sense of belonging, learn about the values of their community, and gain a better understanding of how their local culture contributes to the broader tapestry of human diversity.


5. Inconsistent Efforts

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Inconsistent efforts lead to confusion, hinder the development of genuine curiosity, and diminish the value of cultural education.

An example of inconsistent efforts might involve starting a cultural exploration project with enthusiasm but not following through consistently.

For instance, a family might decide to learn about a different country’s traditions and cuisine, but after a couple of days, the project loses momentum and gets abandoned.

This inconsistency can leave children with a superficial understanding of the culture and a feeling that cultural exploration is just a temporary activity.

In contrast, maintaining a consistent and ongoing effort, such as regularly exploring various cultures through books, films, and conversations, would provide a more meaningful and lasting learning experience for the children.

Our aim as parents is to ensure that our children receive a holistic and consistent perspective that prepares them to navigate the complexities of our diverse world with confidence and compassion.


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