Recent violent events both locally and globally have shocked and saddened people around the world. There are complex political, socioeconomic, and cultural factors that play into the kind of news stories we’re seeing so much of lately, but at the core of these issues is a lack of tolerance. It you are unwilling to accept and respect someone else’s differences – be they physical, cultural, political, or religious – it’s easy to believe that another person is not like you in any way. And that makes it easy for relationships – and entire communities – to dissolve into chaos.
Like so many important values, tolerance begins at home. Consider exploring these ideas1 as you teach your children and grandchildren to be open and accepting of all the people around them:
- Be aware of your own biases. We all have our own biases and values. Dig deep and explore your personal beliefs and the differences you may struggle to tolerate. Try to understand those differences and learn more about them in an effort to broaden your understanding of the people they represent. Remember that your children learn by example and they are watching as you interact with the world around you.
- Reach out. Demonstrate your tolerance by helping others who are different, and by showing respect for people who may look, live or think differently than you. This will teach your children that you can – and should – love people both for their differences and despite them. Foresters Financial has many wonderful volunteer opportunities in your own community that may help you broaden your child’s perspective.
- Expose your children to differences. Tolerance comes more easily when you understand the challenges, beliefs, and life experiences of people who are different than you. Take your children to the library and read more about different cultures and religions, and about people with different abilities. It’s important for children to know that the world is made up of many different kinds of people with many different ideas – and it’s a richer, more beautiful world because of all those fascinating differences. We don’t all have to think the same way, nor should we.
- Stand up for others. Don’t perpetuate stereotypes by telling racist or sexist jokes or by participating in any sort of behavior that degrades others. If you encounter this kind of activity firmly tell your children that the jokes being made are unkind and untrue, and that together you’ll learn more about what was being talked about in order to understand the truth.
- Encourage good self-esteem. Children who are secure and proud of who they are, are less likely to feel threatened by the differences of others. They are also more open to exploring and debating opposing points of view in an effort to gain a better understanding of the people and the world around them.
Diversity is a wonderful thing. Being tolerant and accepting of others is in no way a threat to your own beliefs or way of life – it simply allows you to admire the rich and fascinating lives of other people, other cultures, and other ways while still embracing your own personal values and beliefs.
When it comes right down to it, it’s tolerance that allows us to coexist peacefully. That’s why teaching our young people how to be kind, tolerant people is an important way we can help to one day put an end to the violence in our world.
For more resources to help you raise tolerant children, visit Teaching Tolerance.
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