Teaching Your Child Tolerance
Posted 4/14/2016 by UHBlog
It’s a feeling most parents can relate to – your child noticed someone at the grocery store who is different from himself and made a comment just a little too loud. How can you address the awkward moments and teach your child to be accepting of others?
“Children often say things that are very embarrassing to their parents,” says pediatrician Sara Lee, MD. “It’s important to explain things in a way that encourages your child’s curiosity and capitalizes on learning opportunities.”
It’s normal for kids to notice differences in others, but approaching potentially embarrassing situations with tolerance will lead to better long-term outcomes. According to Dr. Lee, tolerant children tend to feel better about themselves and are less likely to bully others.
To teach your child tolerance, Dr. Lee recommends the following tips:
- Start early – As soon as kids start noticing differences, start talking about tolerance.
“It’s an ongoing conversation,” she says. “You can work it into your teaching as young as age four or five.”
- Diversify your activities – Celebrate your own traditions, but take time to learn about other people’s traditions as well.
“Take your children to different community and cultural activities to expose them to a wide range of people and ideas,” Dr. Lee says.
- Be a role model – Children learn by watching you, so model tolerance yourself. Be open to those of different backgrounds, ethnicities, cultures and abilities – and encourage your child to do the same.
- Correct mistakes – Whether it’s your child’s behavior or she is witnessing it second-hand from an intolerant friend or relative, point out unfair stereotypes and intolerant behavior.
“Correct intolerant behavior as you would any other inappropriate behaviors," Dr. Lee says. "Point out how it makes someone else feel.”
By teaching your children tolerance, you’re teaching them kindness. Recognizing and appreciating the differences in others are skills that will make for a more open-minded and well-rounded child.
“Treat others as you’d want to be treated,” Dr. Lee says. “It’s the golden rule.”
Sara Lee, MD is a pediatrician at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children's. You can request an appointment with Dr. Lee or any other University Hospitals doctor online.