Monthly Archives: August 2014

Teaching Diversity

We obviously have a very diverse community. For example, in the Dalton Public Schools, there are students from 30 immigrant countries based on student records from last year: Mexico, Dominican Republic, Japan, El Salvador, Russia, Peru, Guatemala, Nepal, Costa Rica, Burma, Ethiopia, Philippines, Cuba, Vietnam, Iraq, China, Pakistan, Korea, South Africa, Honduras, Ghana, Syria, Egypt, Colombia, India, Chile, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Belize, and Great Britain. I’m sure that in the Whitfield County Schools there is also a variety of countries represented. These students from many different countries provide our children a wonderful opportunity to learn about diverse cultures, customs, and other ways of life; and what a powerful educational experience that is!

So… along with your child’s growing list of activities will also come a growing list of friends, many from different backgrounds. Children seek a sense of belonging and acceptance from peers, and these friendships are a vital part of their development. Learning to develop diverse friendships is important for later in life, as these connections provide the roadmap for future relationships, teaching children to resolve conflict, and get along with others. When children move beyond simply noticing the similarities and differences they share with others, they learn how such characteristics — and people’s attitudes about them — have the power to make them and others feel included or excluded.

“Peer relationships are paramount to children, and this is when you’ll either see the embracing of differences or separation and discrimination, depending on what they’ve been taught in the home,” says Roni Leiderman, Ph.D., dean of the Mailman Segal Center for Human Development at Nova Southeastern University This year marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. In keeping with the law’s spirit, here are some tips to teach your children to embrace diversity:

Model it. Talking to your child about the importance of embracing differences and treating others with respect is essential, but it’s not enough. Your actions, both subtle and overt, are what your child will emulate.

Acknowledge difference. Rather than teaching children that we are all the same, acknowledge the many ways people are different, and emphasize some of the positive aspects of our differences — language diversity and various music and cooking styles, for example. Likewise, be honest about instances, historical and current, when people have been mistreated because of their differences. Encourage your child to talk about

what makes him or her different, and discuss ways that may have helped or hurt. After that, finding similarities becomes even more powerful, creating a sense of common ground.

Challenge intolerance. If your child says or does something indicating bias or prejudice, don’t meet the action with silence. Silence indicates acceptance, and a simple command — “Don’t say that” — is not enough. First try to find the root of the action or comment: “What made you say that about Sam?” Then, explain why the action or comment was unacceptable.

Seize teachable moments. Look for everyday activities that can serve as springboards for discussion. School-age children respond better to lessons that involve real-life examples than to artificial or staged discussions about issues. For example, if you’re watching TV together, talk about why certain groups often are portrayed in stereotypical roles.

Emphasize the positive. Just as you should challenge your child’s actions if they indicate bias or prejudice, it’s important to praise him for behaviors that show respect and empathy for others. Catch your child treating people kindly, let him or her know you noticed, and discuss why it’s a desirable behavior.

Embrace curiosity. Be careful not to ignore or discourage your youngster’s questions about differences among people, even if the questions make you uncomfortable. Not being open to such questions sends the message that difference is negative.

Foster pride. Talk to your child about your family heritage to encourage self-knowledge and a positive self-concept.

Lead by example. As parents, we are role models for our kids. Widen your own circle of friends and acquaintances to include people from different backgrounds, cultures and experiences.

For more information, you can go to

Tom Bartley is a retired educator and currently works at the Family Support Council, 1529 Waring Rd., Dalton, GA 30721; fax # 706-275-6542; or For a copy of this article and more information about The Family Support Council, visit

August 2014

When children set and achieve personal goals it can affect the way they view themselves, and it is an important skill to learn both now and for the future. The new school year is a great time to start. But for many kids, goal setting doesn’t just happen. More often than not, it’s an acquired skill that requires the guidance, support, and encouragement of a parent.. Once children learn to set and work toward goals, they can turn today’s dreams into tomorrow’s reality. This information is adapted from an article by Denise Yearian, a writer who specializes in family topics.

Following are some tips to help:

1. Start early, start simple. Don’t over-reach. Provide structure for goal-setting by having your child aim for something achievable. Good goals might be saving for a special toy, reading a certain number of books, improving a sports skill such as free throws in basketball, or learning to ride bike.

2. Let your child direct. For the goal to be meaningful, it has to be something that is important to your child. Parents may give input, but the goal needs to be the child’s idea for him or her to truly embrace it.

3. Write it down. Make sure the goal is clear and sensible. Have your child include why it is important to him or her. Hang it on the bedroom wall, refrigerator or the bathroom mirror as a reminder. Get a folder or binder to chart progress; let your child decorate the front.

4. Get specific. Outline steps to attaining the goal. Help your child break the goal down into smaller steps or goals so he or she will feel a sense of accomplishment along the way.

5. Consider potential obstacles. Help your child anticipate hurdles and think in advance of ways to overcome them. If children know there will be road bumps along the way, it can ward off discouragement. Remind your child that obstacles are opportunities to learn and strengthen resolve.

6. Decide on a deadline. Set a time frame for attaining the goal. Have your child write down an approximate time frame for achieving the goal to provide a sense of urgency and keep him on track.

7. Monitor and chart progress. Have your child chart progress tangibly – with pictures, charts, or some other kind of record. Include symbols of your child’s

success such as certificates, medals, report cards, etc. The message you want to convey is that the journey is as important as the destination.

8. Make adjustments. Change the time frame, or even the goal, if necessary. Remind your child that there may be unforeseen circumstances that have kept him from attaining his goal in the allotted time. Encourage him to re-evaluate and continue on.

9. Be a cheerleader. Provide support and encouragement rather than criticism. Help your child brainstorm solutions if difficulties arise, but allow him or her to set the direction (even if you think it is wrong). Look for other ways to support your child without taking charge of the goal.

10. Be a mentor. Talk about your own personal goals – and the trials you faced in trying to achieve them. Demonstrate perseverance and discipline, and continue to set personal goals for yourself.


Tom Bartley is a retired educator and currently works at the Family Support Council, 1529 WaringRd., Dalton, GA 30721; fax # 706-275-6542; or For a copy of this article and more information about The Family Support Council, visit