Baby and Kids

How I Talk To My Toddler About Privilege, Inclusion, and Kindness

How I Talk To My Toddler About Privilege, Inclusion, and Kindness

I’m going to start this post off by stating the obvious: I am not an expert on anything I am about to discuss. I am a mom who cares about raising my girls to be kind, inclusive, and giving. One who has put a lot of thought and love into how I communicate with my children. Most of what I am sharing today is me going off what feels right for my family, so if I miss a point or two, please share because I’d love more ideas on how to approach these topics with my girls. I am definitely not perfect, have a lot to learn, and am again, not an expert. 

The goal is to spark important conversations with my children, and I hope this post will inspire some of you to do the same.

How I Talk To My Toddler About Privilege, Inclusion, and Kindness

My advice to parents of babies and toddler is to start with kindness books.

Books on disabilities and inclusivity. Books about being different. Make sure they see faces that don’t look like yours – this is represented in books, TV, toys, and most important – through friends, neighbors, school etc. We love Daniel Tiger and Sesame Street! We have a Black, Asian, and White Minikane dolls. These dolls are great, too. Unfortunately (and these circumstances are very specific to us) the only people my girls see or have really seen the last year and-a-half are…us. 

We read a lot of books. Because of those books, my older daughter knows (again, simple terms here) that people were mean to Rosa Parks because she’s Black and that someone hurt Malala because she is a girl. We even have Rosa Parks pajamas. My older daughter knows she’s white, and that people with other skin colors have not been allowed to do certain things because of the color of their skin. Some would argue that she’s too young to know that, but I respectfully disagree.

My girls know that families can look different.

My older daughter knows that two men or women can love each other, and that some people don’t think that that’s ok. When we read this book, a simple “some kids have two moms” is a good start. Ask them what they think or how something might make someone else feel.

During pride, when we walked by a rainbow flag, we talked about why the flag was up. That rainbows mean love, and that people should be able to love whoever they want. I’ve shown her some of @thejeffreymarsh reels on instagram. I explained that some people think two women or two men shouldn’t be allowed to get married. I have said that it’s up to people to tell us who they are but haven’t really gotten into gender fluidity. If you know me at all, you know my children will know to love and respect those who are LGBTQIA+. When I asked my daughter what she thought about people not wanting two men or two women to get married she said “that’s not kind” – and I think we’d all agree.

Because it’s not. 

I told my daughter that we can’t have chick-fil-a because the man who owns it thinks only men and women should be able to marry each other. She talks about how the chick-fil-a guy is a bully and told our nanny she can’t be friends with him. Kids will take what they’re going to take from these conversations. I do tell her what I believe, but let her lead the way. 

My daughter has seen firsthand that there are a lot of kids who like she was, are sick. I suppose she’s had the unique experience of being in the waiting room and seeing children without hair in wheelchairs. 

I did my best to explain fundraising, and how when people purchased something from one of my collaborations,  money went to help families in treatment. She has helped bring toys for kids in the hospital because it makes them feel happy, and she’s helped choose toys for children who need gifts this year. I do not make it about us or how kind we are. The focus is on how some people need a little help, and it’s more about the act of choosing things for them. About fundraising and donating to causes that matter. About kindness and love and equality. 

It was books that got us talking about pride, love, same-sex marriage, and race.

It can be as simple as saying “that person is Black” (assuming I know they’re actually Black, or we’ll just talk about how our skin colors are different) or “that kid has two moms”. It’s just identifying and normalizing things that are…normal. And good. We play pretend a lot, and I’ve talked a lot about how one day, there will be a new kid in school, and how it would be kind to include them. We acted it all out and when I was the new girl, I asked Margot what she could say or do when she sees me all alone. She asked me to be her best friend. 

There were a lot of reader questions about Christmas gifts.

Last year, Margot got a sled, tricycle, and a few gifts in her stocking. It was fairly simple. Our family had an especially strange year. We’re still isolated because of treatment, I had to keep Margot out of preschool, and we’ll be home all winter. I bought more than I normally would this year, but got toys I knew would keep the girls busy while we’re indoors the next 4-5 months. But even with random purchases, I wouldn’t say there’s an expectation that that’s always how it will be. If Margot isn’t feeling well, or specifically, when she has a week of steroids every three months, she gets a lot of screen time. Once she’s feeling better, that stops, and it’s never been an issue. So I think it’s ok to get the big gift, but balance it with giving to others. 

Margot was only two last Christmas, so she was a part of bringing toys to the hospital but that’s it. This year, I explained that we were going to help a family have Christmas. She knows their little girl goes to the doctor a lot like she used to, and that they are having a hard time right now, and that we’re going to help buy some gifts for her. I haven’t talked much about our role because it’s not about us, but she does know that we get to help them.

We talk about not buying things just because we can, about what we actually need vs. what we want, and I’ll let her know when something is too expensive, too.

Sometimes, I say no because she can’t get whatever she asks for. And other times, I order the Toy Story doll or pajamas for no reason and watch their eyes light up. Balance. It helps that my three year old is extremely grateful. 

We talk a lot about feelings. About our own feelings, and how other people might feel. No one is bad. It’s not about nice or not nice. We all have big feelings, and it’s really about learning to control them. There is so much I could say on this, but I’ve learned a lot from @drbeckyatgoodinside so just follow her and listen to her podcast. 

There are people who do not have the privilege of not knowing about racism or poverty.

That alone is privilege. It isn’t fair and it isn’t ok. As parents, we can protect our children and keep them innocent, but we can’t shelter them completely. I won’t pretend race doesn’t exist, or wait until they are much, much older to tell them that it’s ok to be yourself. It is important (especially for white families) to expose your children to people of different races from the start. Children are not colorblind. No one is. Let’s love and appreciate that we look different. 

Our children can maintain innocence and be taught to be kind and empathetic from the start. Talk about our differences, and let them know those differences make us special. 

I’m sure I forgot something, but wanted to at least touch on these topics. I’d love to hear from you! Have you started talking about these issues with your kids? If you have any favorite resources, leave them in the comments below. 

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  • This is a wonderful post with such good ideas. I’m a grandmother, and yet I find this helpful. Thank you for writing and posting this.

  • I don’t have children myself, but I always enjoy your thoughtful perspective on parenting and hope to be able to take advantage of this approach if I ever do have kids. Happy holidays to you and your girls Danielle!

  • What a thoughtful post, so helpful. Your initial message is the key, we will not teach our kids about kindness, inclusivity, and privileged perfectly, but we have to try and start somewhere, even if imperfectly. Thank you for sharing.

  • This is a great post! Very helpful. It might be good to change the title to “How I talk…” rather than “how to talk” since you acknowledge you are not an expert.

    1. Thanks, Betty! Title has been updated. Appreciate the suggestion.

  • Shane Burcaw put together a great resource about talking to kids about disability: https://www.laughingatmynightmare.com/discussing-disability

    What I think is most important is that if you’re with your child and you see someone disabled (in my case, in a wheelchair), answer any questions they have rather than telling them to be quiet, because they can then internalize that and come to think of disability as a “bad” thing they can’t talk about.

    I’m sure this is not new news to you! But I wanted to share my personal experiences, too.

  • Hi Danielle,

    I am a bit disappointed to read the interaction above, most ironically, in the comment section of a post on privilege.

    You write in your post, “There are people who do not have the privilege of not knowing about racism or poverty.
    That alone is privilege.”

    Do you not see how “disengaging” with comments that challenge your white view of privilege is going against the very advice you write about? The ability to disengage, is peak privilege.

    Truly, if you cannot see that or, at the very minimum take the constructive criticism provided to you by someone with actual lived experience than you ought not to be using your platform to provide guidance on the issue.

    1. It is very disheartening to constantly be told, scolded, advised by you, Danielle, on how to be kind to others and how you feel it’s your mission to “help” others. I do not understand how your impulsive response to the above poster was to delete the comment but decided not to. That thought – even though not deleted speaks volume about your priviledge, basically you are implying because you didn’t like someone’s tone with you, it could be swept off the internet. Can you please, for once, imagine the generations of people who are told their voices don’t matter based off their skin color, and being “deleted” because a white woman didn’t like it. Such a bad look and honestly, your content is so stale as it really only pertains to people with tons of money. I am very sad to no longer be a supporter and genuinely believe your mission to help people is really just for your own self serving purposes. What a slap in the face to say “I had lunch with a Black friend” but then also say you don’t go anywhere. You literally are out running errands all the time and having playdates. Please pick a lane…because the current one is not sufficient.

      1. Hi Amina,

        I am not telling anyone how to do things. I’m sharing what I do. I did not grow up in a home where kindness was a thing. There was a ton of verbal (and a little physical) abuse, so to me, kindness feels especially important.

        I can imagine what you are saying. My grandmother lost her entire family because of it. But yes, I can imagine that.
        People being silenced or deleted for years because of their skin color, beliefs, gender etc. is horrible.

        We have seen friends a few times outside our home in the last few months. It just feels like we never see anyone – I have friends who live nearby who I haven’t seen in months. I did not for mean for that to be literal.