Bias And Opinion

When my daughter was all of 6, she adored a certain Bollywood star to bits. She had very famously declared that she would ‘marry’ the star, and go to play in the snow with him. Till, one day, when the actor was on TV, she ran to pick up the remote from the table (as a rule, we don’t keep the remote in our hands – its common property) and changed channels! The conversation that followed went something like this:

Bias And Opinion

Me: “Sweety, why did you change the channel? He’s your favorite actor!

Little G: “No he’s NOT!”  There was a certain distress in her voice which made me sit up and probe further.

Me:“Why? You used to like him so much….”

Little G:  “Because he’s a (religion).

My face must have given away my shock. G (the husband), who was sitting a little away, looked at me and shook his head. I understood what he meant – Not now. No reaction. Probe, and discuss later.

I let her watch her cartoon for a little while, I gathered my wits, and had a discussion with G on how we wanted to handle this. I went to her and asked her if she wanted a snack. (My daughter is most open to new ideas when she has her favorite snack – must be a genetic thing)

Me :“Errr….. baby, who told you Actor is a (religion)?”

Little G named an elderly relative, who is a regular visitor. This person is someone we all love and respect; and more importantly, is someone who has won Little G over, lock stock and barrel.

Me (in a tricky situation now):“And what if he does follow that religion? How does that make him bad?”

Little G (now looking at me with an exasperated look): “Well, they fight with us. Just like (people from another state in India)”

I looked at G, and the grim look on his face told me that he too, thought this was a serious issue. We had to educate her on the tolerance of the diversity we have in our world, while keeping the friendship she had with the elderly relative intact. Phew!!

Me: “Baby, see….. When Grampy was young, there were many wars. And Grampy fought in them too….. Just like people from (other religion). Grampy lost a lot of money, and friends during that time. So, these people started hating each other. OK tell me something – are all the friends who play with you in the park always nice to you?”

Little G (scrunching her face trying to remember): “Not all. Sometimes Divya says she’s cutty (not friends) with me…. And sometimes, Ananya too, when she and Divya become partners.”  

Me:“But you still play with each other, right? Why don’t you stop playing with Divya and Ananya?”

Little G (looking at me as if I had said the unthinkable): Mammaa….. We only fight when we don’t agree on the same things, sometimes. But they are my friends.  And we have a lot of fun together too….”

Me :“Sweety, grown-ups are just the same!! We keep having fights over things we don’t agree. We call it an opinion”.

Little G: “O-PEE-NI-ON?”

I laughed at her attempts at saying the new word. But things seemed to be going well, as she climbed up the sofa to sit on my lap. She always did that when she needed to understand something I said.

Me :“Just because they have a different o-pee-ni-on from you, does not make them ‘Bad’ does it?

She shook her head.

“And not everyone is good or bad because they come from a different state, or a different country. A person is bad only if they hurt someone else. Right? And such a person can be from any place.”

A slight nod of the head.

That’s when G pitched in with the last bit of overwhelming information for a 6-year-old. “Sweety, you know Adi Uncle is Papa’s best friend right? He and I shared a room in college for 3 years. Adi Uncle is also a (religion). And did you know that Mamma is not from Delhi?”

Little G smiled. “Yeah! I know. Mamma is from Kay-ra-la. Right Mamma?”

I think we established the fact to Little G – for now. But reinforcement comes by way of our conversations at home. I realized (hopefully right on time) that kids seem to have little magnets in their heads which pick up biases at the speed of light.

Which means that the moment I voice my disappointment over the driver because he comes from a certain state, or when a neighbor has loud wedding festivities which I attribute to their religion or caste, or when I say that someone is a careful spender because of a community they belong to, my little one picks it up, whether I like it or not.

We, as parents, sow the seeds of tolerance in our kids. Or intolerance. The choice, as they say, is entirely ours. And the only way to influence their choices is to walk the talk.

Meena Bhatnagar is a mother of two, with a passion for the written word. She dabbles with fiction, a couple of them finding their way into published work, is an avid blogger, and works as a corporate trainer to pay for all the damages. She blogs on parenting, social issues and humorous incidents of her life and on hotel & restaurant reviews and corporate training.

  • Wow.. you handled that beautifully. Kids these days pick up all kinds of things from all kinds of sources and what’s even more frustrating is that as they grow older we have less and less control on who they talk to. It’s scary.

    • Thank you obsessivemom … but it will suffice to say that I was shaking in stress during the whole episode … this was such a tricky situation…

  • Roshni

    whew! It’s so true that what we say unthinkingly is picked up so fast by the little ones and taken so seriously!

    • Absolutely … its like they have little tape recorders in their heads, which play back the worst things you’ve said, in the most inappropriate of times 🙂

  • Erin

    What a great lesson on remembering to think a little more before we say something aloud – especially in front of impressionable ears – and to judge a little (or a lot) less overall.

    Wonderful post.

    • Thank you so much Erin …. yet another skill parents learn with time – the art of biting their tongue 🙂

  • Fab

    Great post!! That’s the challenge – even if we don’t entertain or speak about such biases, kids can pick them up from any source, especially in a country like India, where people don’t really understand the concept of keeping their thoughts to themselves. You handled that really well, and this might help other parents in similar situations too!

    • How true …. we really don’t think twice before saying things that may be considered racist … and kids pick them up so quickly!

  • It is so painful to see kids picking up such influences from grown ups. It is high time we so called adults keep our outdated stereotypes away from kids. Glad that you handled the situation in a very positive manner.

    • Desi traveller …. well, sometimes, it is not so easy to keep the older generation away – and I think, most of the time, they are a good influence -except when it comes to the biases they so openly voice…. maybe a truce with them is the right way?

  • Loved the post, and more than that loved the way you have handled the situation Meena. I totally agree we as parents tend to impose our thoughts on our kids and make them think as we do/feel. We don’t let them have an opinion of their own. It is sad but true. We as parents have a long long way to go.

    • Thank you Falak – from regional biases to bias based on the skin color, we have it all, don’t we? I mean, even our parents did have them – maybe lesser, but it was there…… I guess we have a long way to go.

  • excellent post.. and something which should be taught to children. Everything from a senior ( buzurg’s ) mouth need not be golden words of advice… such seeds of hatred should never be allowed to carry forward – I would infact say that a quiet but stern word be given to the ‘elder’ in question as well. Having a hatred towards an individual is different : teaching small children to hate because of their own bias is unacceptable.

    • Roshan – so good to have you comment here! Its so difficult to manage sentiments of the buzurg also – if you cut the words when they are spoken! I had some ugly scenes when a particularly spirited buzurg said something about how the maids today did not sit on the floor like earlier ones – and I leapt up to say they are humans too….. i can’t have my kids thinking it is ok for a strata of human beings to be slaves to another!!! But what followed was far from pleasant.

  • Dear Meena, I admire the way you caught the digression immediately, then on cue from your husband, waited for the right moment and dealt with it the way you did. Most parents would be lost, or would display a big reaction saying, No! That is wrong. You should never do this… and this reaction leaves a bigger impression of the “differences/diversity” in the child, rather than correcting/teaching tolerance.
    I wouldn’t have been able to react the way you did. I learnt something from this post today. Hopefully, I will use it in my future.
    Thanks for sharing an important perspective on parenting.
    Regards
    Punam

    • Thank you Punam! But let me assure you, I was at a loss of words too. I had to think a lot before I said what I did….. and as parents, we all learn from each other, don’t we?

  • Firdos

    Very well Handled Meena…..

    • Thank you so much Firdos!! And so good to see you here!

  • Loved the way you handled the situation with deft touch – it is important to nip a few misconceptions in the bud and this certainly qualifies as one of them.

    Cheers 🙂

    • Ofcourse! Nipping it in the bud is the only way we can ensure that the kids grow up to form their own opinions, and not emulate the biases we have.

  • Very interesting, very pertinent, very wise. Compliments to you and G for the sensitivity with which you approached the matter. Your children are fortunate. God Bless!

    • Thank you so much Sir! I am humbled by the kind words everyone has for this little incident. But the truth is that many times, I catch myself having biases when I think; I may not say them aloud, but they exist – I am not proud of them.

  • Jas

    Wonderful Meena. You handled it very well. I agree, the choice is ours. Unknowingly we sow these seeds and then later on think how the hell did it happen.

    • Thank you so much for the comment in the blog as well, Jas! The sad part is, we sow the seeds, and then sit pretty blaming the current generation. Who created generation next? We did, right?

  • Excellent post! Loved the way you handled the situation. I wish there were books written to make parents aware of how they implant certain wrong ideas in their children unknowingly.

    • That is one fantastic idea!! Maybe PArentous can take a cue, and publish a book out of all the entries – there is a wealth of wisdom here itself! Thank you so much Amit!

  • Sia

    Excellent Post!

  • Lovely post, Meena! It is really scary how they latch on to the negatives so fast or maybe we take the positives for granted..

    The fact that kids just reflect their surroundings, specially their family is so very true!

  • Nirvana, a situation quite brilliantly handled.. guess parenting is all bout these moments, eh?

    Totally agree with u tht the lil ones pick up those carelessly thrown prejudices of ours n the effects sometimes present quite of a predicament… n the impression it leaves o their minds is quite unfathomable..

    nice of u hv written bout this issue.. I’m sure u’ve prepared other new parents for such similar situations .

    Well done Nirvana 🙂

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