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Last Updated on August 30, 2016 by Diane Hoffmaster
In today's increasingly hostile world, it is vitally important to teach your child tolerance. I live in a relatively conservative area of the south where tolerance is not always an accepted lesson to teach your children. When my son was in second grade, the elementary school he attended was having 'dress up day' as part of a 'We will not call it Halloween' celebration. The children were allowed to wear their non scary costumes to school, eat cupcakes decorated with orange frosting and open goodie bags filled with candy and plastic spiders. NOT Halloween, though...Dress Up Day. Anyhow, he was so proud of his costume until one of the girls in his class told him that only people who worship the devil dress up for Halloween. He was *8* years old and came home totally freaked out and afraid that he had offended God somehow by wearing his costume to school. Unlike THAT little girl's mother, I want to be the kind of mom who teaches her children tolerance of other people's beliefs and customs!
How to Teach Your Child Tolerance
Whether it is the latest case of a celebrity acting badly or an insensitive remark made by a small child, the world can be a hateful place. So, how does a parent go about teaching tolerance to a child? While some of the following ideas are geared towards particular age groups, there is no 'right' time to start this lesson.
1. Be a good role model: Tolerance is a learned trait and this is probably the number one most important recommendation I can think of. If your child hears you, your spouse, or other people of authority using racial slurs or derogatory slang words, they WILL begin adapting those words and attitudes into their own personalities. Do not make generalizations about a race or religion based on common stereotypes and if people around your child are using words or phrases that are hurtful, use it as a teaching moment. When you tuck them into bed at night, talk to them about how those words hurt people's feelings.
2. Keep the lines of communication open: As your kids become teens it is important that they know to come to you for information. We understand this when it comes to questions about sex and drugs but if your child brings up a topic like a fight at school or bullying you should dig deeper and use it as a tolerance teaching moment. Bullying is usually one of the first signs of a child who is NOT being taught tolerance at home.
3. Teach compassion from an early age: When children are small, we kiss their boo-boos and teach them not to hit their friends. This is the very beginning of teaching children to be compassionate. As they get older, teach them that hurtful words cause bad feelings and ask them how THEY would feel if they were tormented by their peers because of their religious beliefs or the color of their skin. A compassionate child is a tolerant one!
4. Do not shield them from ALL news: While you certainly don't want your 5 year old watching the media circus covering a school shooting, as they get older they need to be aware of SOME of the strife taking place in our world. There are websites that offer age appropriate news stories like Time for Kids or CNN Student News. As your children read about religious wars, arguments over political views, and the current state of the country's finances, TALK to them about these issues.
5. Expose your children to other cultures: This is easier in some parts of the country than others. I live in the outskirts of a major city and we have restaurants, churches, and festivals for just about every nationality imaginable. You can get children's books that discuss many nationalities, religions, and social situations. In order to teach your child tolerance, use holidays as a teaching moment..even if they aren't your own! Just because you don't celebrate Kwanza or Passover doesn't mean you can't teach your child what they are all about. This world is a melting pot of cultures and exposing children to other ideas at a young age will help ensure that they grow up to be tolerant adults!
If you have very young kids, you may want to check out these games to prevent bullying. Remember to be a good role model and to keep lines of communication open! Answering your child's questions may not be easy all the time but at least they will be getting the answer YOU want them to have! One morning I ended up having a discussion about cross dressing and sex change operations at the breakfast table. I wasn't really ready for that discussion over my bowl of Cheerios and seriously could have used more coffee but hopefully they got the answers they needed in a slightly coherent manner! In an increasingly global society, learn to teach your child tolerance and acceptance of other cultures.
Diane is a professional blogger and nationally certified pharmacy technician at Good Pill Pharmacy. She has two college aged kids, one husband and more pets than she will admit to. She earned her BS in Microbiology at the University of New Hampshire but left her career in science to become a stay at home mom. Years of playing with LEGO and coloring with crayons had her craving a more grown up purpose to her life and she began blogging and freelance writing full time. You can learn more about her HERE.