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Your 3-year-old now
You're cruising down the cereal aisle when your preschooler spots a man in shorts with a prosthetic leg. She stares and asks, in a loud voice, "Daddy, what's wrong with that man's leg?"
Three-year-olds are keenly attuned to the differences between themselves and others. And they're not afraid to ask questions about them – loudly. Why is someone's hair, eye shape, or skin color different? Why is that woman in a wheelchair? They're genuinely surprised and curious.
While their timing (and volume) may embarrass you, these questions can open a door to meaningful conversation later about race, age, gender, or disabilities. Try to answer in a brief and matter-of-fact way: "That man had an accident and lost his leg, and doctors made him a new one." Keep explanations simple. For example, pointing out that skin comes in all different shades is easier for a 3-year-old to grasp than a deeper discussion about labels like "Asian" or "African American." And if the person your child is asking about is within earshot, it'll probably be less likely to offend or embarrass him, too.
This is a great age for teaching acceptance without judging. While your child may be attuned to differences, help her observe people's similarities as well: "Jimmy only has one arm, but he's your age, and he likes to play on the swings and pretend he's a tiger, just like you." Try to expose your child to all kinds of people. Take her along when you visit elderly relatives, for example, or friends of a different race.
Your life now
Ever feel your blood slowly simmeringwhen your child dawdles or ignores you? You'll get better results if you direct your child's behavior with language that's as specific as possible. For example, instead of "Let's get ready for dinner," say, "Please put your blocks away and wash your hands now."
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