tolerant children

Raising Tolerant Children: The Importance of Teaching Tolerance

I have been keen on raising tolerant children since Zaviar, my firstborn, came into this world. The world we live in today needs a lot of tolerance and a lot more kindness than it already has. Thankfully, we are getting there because more and more people are becoming more aware and teaching tolerance to their children. Baby steps, but there is a visible improvement compared to the tolerance there was a decade ago. 

Definition of Tolerance

The Cambridge Dictionary defines tolerance as:

Willingness to accept behavior and beliefs that are different from your own, although you might not agree with or approve of them

Being tolerant does not mean you have to agree with something. You can strongly disagree with a concept and still teach your children to be tolerant of it. Teach your children right and wrong but teach them to be tolerant of what others think is right and wrong. Everyone has to answer for themselves. Imagine a world where everyone is kind to each other. Imagine a time when people don’t think twice before sending their child to school just because he’s a little different from others. 

Tolerance towards what, you ask? 

  • Tolerance towards color. 
  • Tolerance towards religion. 
  • Tolerance towards culture. 
  • Tolerance towards people with special needs. 
  • Tolerance towards the differently-abled
  • Tolerance towards minorities. 
  • Tolerance towards gender differences. 
  • Tolerance towards language and accent. 
  • Tolerance towards status differences. 
  • Tolerance towards demographic differences. 
  • Tolerance towards people’s choices and opinions. 
  • Tolerant towards how people dress. 
  • Tolerance towards looks.
  • Just tolerance.

What is Our Job as Parents

Our job is to instill kindness in our children’s hearts so that just like the people who are promoting racism today are doing it because it is a part of them, our children promote kindness and tolerance. Twenty to thirty years later, when our children are the generation in power, they also have it ingrained in them so much that they exude kindness and tolerance everywhere they go. 

What we can do is teach our children that they are unique. That everyone is unique. That even if they don’t like something about someone or don’t agree with it, they can still be kind. Kindness does not make you a people pleaser. I do not promote that. But tolerance and kindness can still be possible without turning them into people pleasers. 

I simply loathe the racism that has been engraved in the hearts of so many people. It’s not their fault because they have grown up believing that a certain color is superior. What I love are the movements that are going on all over the world to speak against it. It shows growth. It shows the baby steps that I was talking about towards a more tolerant world. 

My Teaching Moment 

The other day, my son was talking to me about some characters of Code Spark, a coding game he loves playing with his father. A lot of our conversations revolve around characters he likes or dislikes from the books we read, the TV shows he watches or the games he plays. 

He told me that day that he doesn’t like Naomi, a character in the game, because her face is black. In a normal everyday conversation, this got me worried. I sat him down to have the talk in a very serious fashion. “Why don’t you like her Zaviar? You do like the color black!”, I tried to reason with him. “God has made everyone beautiful hasn’t He?” I asked him. “But she looks scary Ama”, he went on. 

That’s when we decided to look at what Naomi looks like. When I googled a list of Code Spark characters, I found out that Naomi is, in fact, not black in color. She is a ninja that wears a completely black suit and only shows her eyes. I silently thanked God that my son wasn’t being intolerant and proceeded to explain to him what ninjas are. Honestly, if we really want to teach them tolerance, we have to look for these moments everywhere.

But How Do We Go About Teaching Tolerance?

How will the children learn about tolerance? Through exposure to different religions, people who look different, people who talk differently, people who are differently-abled. The more exposure your children get the easier it is for them to learn about the differences in people and the need for tolerance. Take them to different places, send them to inclusive schools, and also be wary of the cartoons and TV shows they watch. Children are literally like sponges. They absorb everything.

You also have to be comfortable about talking with your children about everything. The moment we as parents show that we are uncomfortable talking about something, the children sense that something is wrong somewhere. Teach them about tolerance by getting down on your knees and talking about it and having a heart-to-heart conversation with them. Children understand the best when they are at eye level with you. Also, respect your children’s opinions. A child will never learn to be tolerant of others’ views and opinions if you don’t respect his own.

But what is the best way to teach anything? That’s right, by example. We can only teach our children to be tolerant if we ourselves are tolerant parents. A man who smokes himself will never be taken seriously by his children if he tells them smoking is wrong and one shouldn’t smoke. Why? Because he himself smokes. Teach your children about tolerance by being tolerant parents yourselves. 

Farwah Shah
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