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Raising Tolerant Children

Our children’s world is increasingly becoming more diverse. As a result, they must learn to deal effectively with others who are culturally different. As parents it is our job to help them learn to navigate through these challenges so they will have a well balanced, enriched and healthy life.

Following is a list of tips which will help you in your commitment to raise sensitive, tolerant, and respectful children.

  • Model appropriate behavior – Children are not born with prejudice; they must learn it. Oftentimes, as parents we don’t realize how easily our children pick up the attitudes and subtle actions we display. We may not even be aware of the example we are setting until our children emulate it. Pay attention to what you say and how you react to those who are different. Your children are!
  • Start early – Begin consciously teaching your child at a very early age. Read books about other cultures, talk about diversity, and don’t overreact when your toddler points out obvious differences. Most often they are just curious and want to know the “why” and “how.” Explain in matter-of-fact terms why someone’s skin color is different or why another child is in a wheelchair.
  • Screen media – Pay attention to the television programs, movies, and music your children listen to and watch. Many of the negative messages children learn come from stereotypes and intolerance fed to them through sitcoms, hateful lyrics, and biased media.
  • Keep your eyes and ears open – Watch your child while playing. Does he avoid those who are different? How does he treat someone new? What does he say about others at school? Use these opportunities to engage him in conversation about diversity.
  • Make your values clear – Remind him often about your family values. Let him know precisely what is or is not appropriate behavior. Try saying,“In our family we do not make fun of others or call people names!”
  • Add diversity to your family – Try having a regular “culture night.” Prepare a dinner together with specific ethnic foods. Talk about what life is like within your chosen culture-especially for the children. Read a story or watch a film that compliments your cultural choice. Many areas host ethnic festivals each year which can be a fun learning experience also.
  • Discuss similarities – Change the conversation up a bit and remind him that although people are certainly diverse, we have more similarities than differences. All people want love, respect, and to be understood.
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