KOODAKPRESS

How to Raise Tolerant, Inclusive Kids

Here are some ways you can teach your children to appreciate differences in a diverse world.

According to koodakpress، Kids aren’t born to hate. Intolerance is learned. And in the same way, kids can be taught to be sensitive, understanding, empathetic and tolerant. Although it’s certainly never too late to begin, the sooner we start, the better chance we have of preventing intolerant attitudes from taking hold of our children’s minds and hearts. After all, if our kids are to have any chance of living harmoniously in our multiethnic, global 21st century, it is critical that we raise them to be tolerant, kind and inclusive.

Here are some ways to do just that:

Confront your prejudices. The first step to nurturing tolerance is to examine your own biases. Chances are that you are communicating those attitudes and might not even know you are tainting your kids’ views. Reflect on your upbringing and your own parents’ prejudices. Might any biases remain with you today that you are projecting to your child? Make a conscious attempt to temper those biases so that they don’t prejudice your child.

Model tolerance. Traits such as tolerance and compassion are caught as well as taught, and that’s exactly why we need to practice what we preach. Convey to your child how strongly you believe that all people – regardless of race, gender, religion, age, ability, sexual orientation, economic background, appearance or culture – should be treated with respect and dignity.

Broaden horizonsEncourage your child to have contact with individuals and make friends of different races, cultures, ages, genders, abilities and beliefs. We’re more likely to empathize with those who are like us: our gender, age, income or race, for example. But stepping outside our comfort zones and mingling with and befriending people who are different from us builds tolerance and conveys to our kids that they should expand their own social horizons.

Look for commonalities, too. We are more likely to empathize with those who are “like us.” This doesn’t mean overlooking differences. Rather, when your child points out how another child is different from them, it’s about also showing them things they have in common. Like if your child notices that another kid looks different or has beliefs that your child doesn’t share, take the time to discuss similarities as well, such as that they like the same subjects in school.

Talk about race and exclusion. Kids are naturally curious, so you should expect questions about differences, but how you respond can create or prevent stereotypes from forming. Answer questions simply and honestly though some may seem embarrassing or even taboo. Suppose your child says, “Sally is a girl and shouldn’t play football!” You might say, “Girls can play the same sports boys do. Sally likes to play football, so she should play it.” Or perhaps your child asks why the color of other kids’ skin is different from hers. You could explain that “skin comes in lots of different colors just like eyes come in different colors.”

Expose your child to diverse experiences and ideas. Inexperience, especially if combined with incomplete information, can lead children to have fears or insecurities about others and develop stereotypes. To help your child respect different perspectives, expose her to toys, dolls, food, music, customs, videos and games from an early age that represent a wide range of multicultural groups. Encourage your child to participate in social and community activities or to visit museums which promote cross-cultural programs, diversity, resistance to hate groups and other actions that nurture tolerance.

Studies show that only a small percent of children’s books feature people of color. So expose your kids to literature that features positive images of various cultures and help them recognize that even though people look different on the outside, we’re all the same on the inside. For younger kids, check out “Same, Same But Different” by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw (India); “How My Family Came to Be: Daddy, Papa and Me” by Andrew Aldrich, about the author’s experience as an African-American child adopted by white, gay couple; “The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses,” by Paul Goble (Native American). Older kids, check out, “Children of the River,” by Linda Crew (Cambodia); “Dear Mrs. Parks,” by Rosa Parks; and “The Invisible Thread” by Yoshiko Uchida (Japan).

Refuse to allow discriminatory comments. When you hear prejudicial comments, verbalize your displeasure. Such stereotypes can address gender, race, age, lifestyles, beliefs, appearance, abilities, religion and culture and are always sweeping generalities that can become entrenched beliefs. Your child needs to hear your discomfort so that she knows your values: “That’s disrespectful and I won’t listen to disrespect” or “That’s a biased comment, and I don’t want to hear it.” It also models a response kids can imitate if prejudicial comments are made in their presence.

Teach kids how to be inclusive. If we want our kids to include others, we need teach them how. Show your child how to meet new people. Model how to introduce yourself and invite an acquaintance to sit with you. Let your child see how you start conversations and encourage others. Then help your child practice those skills at home so he can use them in the real world.

Stress empathy and talk about exclusion. Talk to your child about the effects of deliberately excluding someone because they are different. “How would you feel? How do you think she feels? What could you do to make her feel better?” Role play with your child what to do or say if your child sees it happen. “Suppose a new student comes to school who is of a different ethnic group than your friends. You want to get to know him better, but your friends don’t want to include him because he looks different. What will you do? What should you do?”

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