1. Talk about Tolerance
Tolerance is an ongoing process; it cannot be captured in
a single moment. Establish a high "comfort level" for open
dialogue about social issues. Let children know that no
subject is taboo.
2. Identify intolerance when children are exposed to
Point out stereotypes and cultural misinformation depicted
in movies, TV shows, computer games and other media. Challenge
bias when it comes from friends and family members. Do not
let the moment pass. Begin with a qualified statement: "Andrew
just called people of XYZ faith 'lunatics.' What do you
think about that, Zoe?" Let children do most of the talking.
3. Challenge intolerance when it comes from your children
When a child says or does something that reflects biases
or embraces stereotypes, point it out: "What makes that
joke funny, Jerome?" Guide the conversation toward internalization
of empathy and respect"Mimi uses a walker, honey.
How do you think she would feel about that joke?" or "How
did you feel when Robbie made fun of your glasses last week?"
4. Support your children when they are the victims of
Respect children's troubles by acknowledging when they become
targets of bias. Don't minimize the experience. Provide
emotional support and then brainstorm constructive responses.
Develop a set of "comebacks" for children who are victims
5. Foster a healthy understanding of group identities
For tweens and teens, group identity is critical. Remind
them, however, of three things. First, pride in our own
groups does not mandate disrespect for others. Second, no
group is entitled to special privileges. Third, we should
avoid putting other groups down as a way to elevate the
status of our own groups.
6. Showcase diversity materials in your home
Read books with multicultural and tolerance themes to your
children. Assess the cultural diversity reflected in your
home's artwork, music and literature. Add something new.
Give multicultural dolls, toys or games as gifts. Bookmark
equity and diversity Web sites on your home computer.
7. Create opportunities for children to interact with
people who are different from them
Look critically at how a child defines "normal." Expand
the definition. Visit playgrounds where a variety of children
are presentpeople of different races/ethnicities,
socioeconomic backgrounds, family structures, etc. Encourage
a child to spend time with eldersgrandparents, for
example. Attend religious services at a variety of houses
8. Encourage children to call upon community resources
The earlier children interact with the community, the better;
we are not islands unto ourselves. If a child is interested
in stars, visit the local library, museum or planetarium.
A child who is concerned about world hunger can volunteer
at a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter.
9. Be honest about differences
Do not tell children that we are all the same; we're not.
We experience the world in different ways, and those experiences
matter. Help your child understand the viewpoints of others.
10. Model the behavoiur you would like to see
As parents and as children's primary role models, we must
be consistent in how we treat others and in our commitment
to tolerance. If we as parents treat people differently
based on characteristics such as race or gender, our children
are likely to do the same.