Most of us are lucky to live in a free country with freedom of speech and religious expression and equal rights, but it’s still important that we teach kids tolerance to maintain the efficacy of these values and preserve them for future generations. Tolerant children (and adults) make for a better and responsible society where everyone is equal and differences are welcomed, not shunned. Here are some ways we can teach kids tolerance.
1. We Need to Try and Get along
The first way to help teach kids tolerance is to stress the importance of getting along with other people in the world. We are, after all, constantly surrounded by new people who we may or may not like – we just have to get along. If you sense your child doesn’t like a particular person because of their appearance (hair color or skin color, disability etc), explain that there are all sorts of people in the world and that we have to get along with everyone, not just those who look the same as us or we like the look of. Children learn this from their parents – if they see you being prejudiced towards others, they will respond to that. Remind children that, inside, we are all the same, regardless of what is on the outside.
2. How Would You like to Be Treated?
The timeless concept of treating others as you wish to be treated is one way to instill tolerance in kids. If you explain simply to your child that they should treat others how they would want to be treated, it works wonders – after all, nobody wants to be treated unfairly! This should help with getting your child to understand tolerance of other types of people; if we’re all the same inside, we should treat everyone the same!
3. We Should Celebrate Differences
Children will do what their parents tell them (generally!), and so one way to teach tolerance to children is to make sure that they celebrate differences. Teach them about the world and how people from other countries eat different foods and wear different clothes, but that when it comes down to it, they still like to watch TV and play outside just like they do. If you celebrate the diverse nature of society, children will respond to that and learn that everyone should be loved.
4. There Are Tools!
If you find that your children are not being tolerant, there are some tools to help them release their anger and deal with the emotions they are feeling. For starters, try these two tools from the Institute of HeartMath: heartmath.org and heartmath.org.
5. Don’t Judge Everyone as the Same
A concept which can be used to teach children tolerance is to remind them that not everyone who is from a certain background, ethnicity or religion is the same, so they should not blame the acts of an individual on a wider group. Tell them that just because someone was mean to them, it doesn’t mean that everyone will be like that.
Talk about compassion. Make sure that you don’t bring up a child or teenager who lacks the ability to empathize. It is paramount that if you are going to be tolerant, you learn about how to look at the world from someone else’s perspective. This tip to teach tolerance works best with older children, who can hopefully understand what that person is going through and thus have compassion and understanding.
7. Make Diverse Friends
If you have a younger child, make sure that you remind them that they can make friends with anyone, regardless of gender, ethnicity or religion. This is easier if you have a diverse range of friends yourself; if not, try and talk to parents of children who are from a different background to yourself in front of your child, or maybe try and eat foods from different countries to promote diversity at home.
There are no secrets to raising tolerant children. So much of the way a child treats others, both as a child and adult, comes from the values they learn from you – their parents. It is important to teach children tolerance because you can’t rely on education and society to do it for you. I’d love to hear your views on this.