Earlier this year, a letter sent by a child to the LEGO toy company went viral. Seven-year-old Charlotte complained about the lack of opportunities for the LEGO girls available at her local toy store. She noticed that the girl figures only visit the beach and the shops, while LEGO boys have interesting jobs and even save lives. LEGO wrote back, adding to the story's viral appeal and confirming for Charlotte that her questions were worthy of a response.
Why are we so pleasantly surprised when a child chooses to speak out? Children have a built-in sense of what's 'fair' or 'unfair.' No one knows this better than a parent or caregiver!
With the chaotic school year over, the summer break offers more time to help your children think through their responses to unfair situations. E-mail, Twitter and Facebook provide endless opportunities for any child to ask questions of companies, organizations and governments.
Here are seven ways to your children thinking (and writing) about fairness this summer:
- Help them feel heard: If a child feels something they see is unfair, encourage them to share more about their feelings. It doesn't have to be global warming. Charlotte's concern was simple, personal and right in front of her.
- Ask them questions: Don't end the conversation with "Yes, that's sad." There are many things to wonder about together. "I wonder who made the decision for this to happen?" or "Who do you think it hurt by this?" are great ways to keep them thinking.
- Encourage them to take it further: Some questions you can answer; others you can't. Help your child figure out who would be best to write to. Is it a toy company, a company that's polluting the lake, or your municipal government?
- Praise them for speaking up: Writing to a group of unknown adults can take courage, and your child deserves praise for taking the leap. With every step they take - whether it's sending that first question or just having the starter conversation with you -- reinforce the idea that speaking up about their concerns is a good thing.
- Don't let lack of skills stop them: If your child has yet to learn to spell, write or type, have them dictate their thoughts to you. Seeing you nod and hearing you murmur "interesting" or "good thought" will encourage them to keep thinking.
- Broaden their horizons: Share age-appropriate news stories and issues with them. They may develop an interest in helping threatened animals through the World Wildlife Fund, or fighting for the children who work to make our clothes or chocolate through World Vision's No Child for Sale campaign.
- Keep a scrapbook: Print out your children's e-mails or copy their letters, and help them build a Justice Scrapbook. Encourage them to draw or print pictures of the issue that's driving them to include in the book.
With all of this thinking and speaking out, you may receive even more pushback than you bargained for the next time you announce bedtime! But at least you'll be refreshed by the new reasons they come up with -- and encouraged by their skills.
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