America is the great "melting pot," a rich blend of cultural traditions from all over the world. Many American families can trace their histories to immigrant ancestors who traveled great distances, enduring risk and hardship, to make a home where they would be guaranteed basic freedoms. And for many American families these freedoms came with a struggle. Their parents and grandparents were denied the basic rights we value.
American society was founded on freedom from religious persecution and on tolerance of differences in beliefs and cultural heritage. The differences (or diversity) that come from people from all over the world enrich our culture, bringing new ideas and energy.
Today, more than ever, kids interact with people of differing ethnicities, religions, and cultures. Classrooms are increasingly diverse, reflecting the communities where families live and work.
Some parents welcome the fact that we live in an increasingly diverse society. Others may feel more hesitant, especially if they haven't had much exposure to people different from themselves. Many kids are way ahead of their parents regarding exposure to cultural differences. Their circle of friends, their schoolmates, and their athletic teams are much more varied than those of even a generation ago.
Still, parents should help their kids prepare to live, learn, and work in communities that will become even more diverse. Teaching tolerance is important not just because it is part of our American heritage, but because the person who learns to be open to differences will have more opportunities in education, business, and many other aspects of life.
In short, your child's success depends on it. Success in today's world — and tomorrow's — depends on being able to understand, appreciate, and work with others.
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.
But does tolerance mean that all behaviors have to be accepted? Of course not. Behaviors that disrespect or hurt others, like being mean or bullying, or behaviors that break social rules, like lying or stealing, should not be tolerated. Tolerance is about accepting people for who they are — not about accepting bad behavior. Tolerance also means treating others the way you would like to be treated.
Like all attitudes, tolerance is often taught in subtle ways. Even before they can speak, children closely watch — and imitate — their parents. Kids of all ages develop their own values, in great part, by mirroring the values and attitudes of those they care about.
Many parents live and work in diverse communities and have friends who are different from themselves in some (or 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 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 own cultural heritage.
Parents can teach tolerance by example — and in other ways, too. Talking together about tolerance and respect helps kids learn more about the values you want them to have. Giving them opportunities to play and work with others is important as well. This lets kids learn firsthand that everyone has something to contribute and to experience differences and similarities.
Things parents can do to help kids learn tolerance include:
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.
Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: January 2011
|Tolerance.org Tolerance.org encourages people from all walks of life to fight hate and promote tolerance.|
|Anti-Defamation League The mission of this organization is to fight anti-Semitism and bigotry of all kinds.|
|Health and Human Development Programs (HHD) The mission of HHD is to foster healthy lifestyles and create healthy and safe environments where people live, learn, and work.|
|DisabilityResources.org This website includes resources for people with disabilities.|
|Helping Kids Cope With Cliques With cliques prevalent in middle and high school, most kids encounter them at some point. Here's how parents can help kids maintain confidence and self-respect while negotiating cliques.|
|Sportsmanship One of the most important goals of kids' sports is helping children develop a sense of good sportsmanship. Here's how to set a good example for your kids.|
|The Story on Self-Esteem You need self-esteem, but it doesn't always come naturally. Find out what it means to feel good about yourself.|
|Developing Your Child's Self-Esteem Self-esteem is a child's armor against the challenges of the world. Here's how you can promote healthy self-esteem in your kids.|
|Feeling Left Out? Being alone in a crowd is no fun. Find out what to do if you're feeling left out.|
|Sportsmanship Some people define good sportsmanship as treating the people that you play with and against as you'd like to be treated yourself. Learn more about what good sportsmanship is all about.|
|Peer Pressure Responding to peer pressure is part of human nature — but some people are more likely to give in, and others are better able to resist and stand their ground. Find out how to make the right choices for you.|
|Dealing With Peer Pressure Did you ever feel like another kid was trying to get you to do something you didn't want to do? If so, you've felt peer pressure. Find out more in this article for kids.|
|Helping Kids Deal With Bullies Unfortunately, bullying is a common part of childhood. But parents can help kids cope with it and lessen its lasting impact.|
|Teaching Kids Not to Bully Whether bullying is physical or verbal, if it's not stopped it can lead to more aggressive antisocial behavior - and interfere with a child's success in school and ability to form and sustain friendships.|
|Dealing With Bullying Bullying has everyone worried, not just the people on its receiving end. Learn about dealing with bullies, including tips on how to stand up for yourself or a friend.|
|She Stops Hate: Emily-Anne's Story Emily-Anne Rigal believes in the positive power of video. Find out more in this article for kids.|
|How to Be a Good Sport Winning is more fun but losing happens to everyone. Find out how to handle losing - and other frustrations in sports.|
|How Cliques Make Kids Feel Left Out A clique is a group of kids who hang out together. It's kind of like a club. The trouble is, the leaders of a clique won't let everyone join. Find out how to handle cliques in this article for kids.|
What to expect when coming to Akron Children's
For healthcare providers and nurses
Residency & Fellowships, Medical Students, Nursing and Allied Health
For prospective employees and career-seekers
Our online community that provides inspirational stories and helpful information.