Teaching Kids About Diversity Through Dignity, Value, and Respect

Teaching Kids About Diversity Through Dignity Value and Respect | Multicultural Kid Blogs

Helping kids to embrace diversity begins with helping them to understand the universal values of human dignity, equal value, and respect.

What are these values? How do we teach kids to understand them and to live them out in the world of school, neighborhood, family, and friends?

Human Dignity

Human dignity is intrinsic to every person. This is not something earned or quantifiable. It is not based on skin color, economic class, educational level, location, family name, health, ability, skill set, age, or any other external factor. Human dignity is foundational and bestowed simply by virtue of being a person. It means that every person is perfectly human just as they are and that every person both innately possesses and deserves to be treated with dignity.

An activity to help young kids understand dignity:

Ask kids to take a blue crayon and remove the blue from it. Don’t just discuss it, really have them hold the crayon (or some other colored object) and brainstorm, trying to remove the blue. Even if they color over the blue with another color, or cover it up, they can never remove blue-ness from blue.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Remind them that every other person has this innate blue-ness, or dignity and that they themselves have it. Their own dignity cannot be removed no matter how other people treat them or how they think of themselves.

Equal Value

People are different, that is obvious, even to the youngest children. But different in physical appearance, color, size, shape, language, location, education, wealth, and ability does not mean different in value. This seems obvious until we look at all the ways our cultures try to establish a hierarchy based on all of these things.

In the news, people are often reduced to numbers or labels. Five killed in a car accident. Twelve injured in a school shooting. Six million disappeared in a holocaust. Fifty victims of Ebola. Immigrant. Terrorist. Activist. Diseased. This reduction makes it hard to see the value of every person, that the person sick with Ebola is as valuable as the person reporting it. That the person seeking refuge across a border is as valuable as the official standing at the border.

Activity to help kids understand equal value:

Discuss the difference between a winner and someone who wins a race or a loser and someone who loses a race. Ask the children: if you lost a race, are you a loser or did you simply lose the race? Talk about the difference between having an experience and an identity.

Photo by Jonathan Chng on Unsplash

Or, be mindful of the language you use as a parent or educator. Instead of talking about people by a label or category, seek to find something unique about them as an identifier. Maybe even their name, if it is someone you can speak to, but it could be something as simple as: the man wearing the red shirt who tried to cross the border – marking him as human, as unique, as an individual with value.


As we engage our kids over the topics of the dignity and value of every human, our differences will be naturally highlighted. Diversity and uniqueness across the human spectrum is what makes humanity beautiful and creative. As kids understand dignity and value, they will embrace respect of this diversity rather than judge it

Respect is deeper than tolerance. Tolerance ends at an acknowledgement of difference. Respect moves to an embrace of and engagement with that difference, a willingness to explore it and celebrate it.

Activity to teach kids respect:

Have kids share positive traits they notice about others (if you have several kids or are in a group setting, make sure all the kids are mentioned). This is a great way for kids to celebrate each other.

And of course as adults, we need to model these things to the children in our lives.

Believe in the inherent human dignity of all, embrace the equal value of all, and choose to honor others with respect.

Further Reading:

25 Resources For Teaching Kids About Diversity

Teaching Diversity: Why Our Kids Need It Now More Than Ever

5 Ways To Teach Diversity In Non-Diverse Areas

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Rachel writes about life at the crossroads of faith and culture. Her work is influenced by living as a foreigner in the Horn of Africa, raising three Third Culture Kids, and adventurous exploration of the natural world. She has been published in the New York Times, Runners World, the Big Roundtable, and more. Her next book will be released in October, 2019. Get all her stories and updates in the Stories from the Horn newsletter http://www.djiboutijones.com/free-djibouti-jones-updates/
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