Tips for Teaching Tolerance

“Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” — Marie Curie

There are few greater things, the developing mind must understand, than empathy. Often, children spend the majority of their developmental time as the center of the universe, and while it’s crucial for their sense of self, it can hinder the basic humanistic maturity that they’ll need as they grow.

Parents are becoming more keen to how important socialization is for young children, and how rich their play is in meaning. Peer interaction reveals their interest and abilities in exploring social themes, highlighting their role in and the feelings that come with, appropriate and healthy interactions. Developing kindness and compassion for others is a critical part of your child's growth. 

The ability to accept others even if they are different, and feel compassion for them is an essential element of social interaction, which I firmly believe is just as important as any academic training. Socially competent children are more successful in life. The ability to relate to and accept people who are different is not just a desired trait — it's a necessity for living in a diverse society. In short, your child's success depends on your willingness to have these conversations. Success in today's world, and tomorrow’s, depends on being able to understand, appreciate, and work with others.

What is tolerance?

Tolerance refers to an attitude of openness and respect for the differences that exist among people. Although originally used to refer to ethnic and religious differences, the concepts of diversity and tolerance can also be applied to gender, people with physical and intellectual disabilities, and other differences, too.

Tolerance means respecting and learning from others, valuing differences, bridging cultural gaps, rejecting unfair stereotypes, discovering common ground, and creating new bonds. Tolerance, in many ways, is the opposite of prejudice.

For us to be tolerant doesn’t mean that all of the behaviors we encounter must be accepted. Behaviors that disrespect or bring harm to others, like insults or bullying, or behaviors that infringe upon social rules, like lying or stealing, should never be tolerated. Tolerance is about accepting people for who they are, not about accepting bad behavior. Tolerance basically means treating others the way you would like to be treated.

How do we teach tolerance?

Like all languages, tolerance is learned by example. Even before they are able to form words, and sentences, children closely monitor, and later imitate, their parents. Kids of all ages develop their own sets of values, in large part, by mirroring the demonstrated attitudes of those they care about.

Many parents live and work in diverse communities and have friends who are different from themselves in many ways. Parents' attitudes about respecting others are often so much a part of them that they rarely even think about it. They teach those attitudes simply by being themselves and living out their values. Parents who demonstrate (or model) tolerance in their everyday lives send a powerful message. As a result, their kids learn to appreciate differences, too.

Of course, celebrating differences of others doesn't mean giving up your own heritage. Your family may have its own longstanding cultural and religious traditions that are something to be proud of. Families can find ways to celebrate differences of others while continuing to honor and pass down their ethnicity’s own set of ideals.

When parents encourage a tolerant attitude in their children, talk about their values, and model the behavior they would like to see by treating others well, kids will follow in their footsteps.

Looking for products that celebrate and educate children about various cultures? Little Proud Kid features a variety of resources and products.

August 06, 2015 by Georgia Lobban
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