We have just experienced one of the most divisive presidential elections in recent memory. Nerves are raw, wounds are fresh, and even younger children are aware that there is tension in the air. If ever there were a time for Americans to show we are one nation, it’s now. Sadly, some have forgotten that it is “unity” that makes us the United States. We must teach our children there is no us or them there is only “We the people”. Of course, these are just words. We will have to take these simple words and show our children how to really live them every day.
So, how do you raise a child to be accepting and to care about the welfare of others at a time when so many people seem intolerant of each other? It won’t be easy but nothing worthwhile ever is.
Teach By Example
Children can teach adults a thing are two about getting along with others. Still, parents you are children’s primary teachers when it comes to their ability to learn to acceptance and care for others. Children are keen observers. They watch, mimic and learn from those in authority around them — and there is no greater authority to a young child than his/her parent. When it comes to teaching fundamental moral traits, such as acceptance, and kindness, these important lessons must start with us.
For example, the next time you are driving and your kids are in the backseat and someone cuts you off remember to be aware of the impressionable little eyes that are watching you. Daily life is where children learn about how to interact with others, how to be patience and take the other guys perspective. If a situation arises where someone is rude or intolerant, discuss how they could have handled the situation better even if that someone is you. When you model how you can admit your mistake and you aren’t afraid to talk about why what you did was wrong and what you could have done to make the situation better your children learn a valuable lesson. They learn the importance of taking responsibility, how to solve problems in the future. They learn a golden rule, how to treat others as they want to be treated.
Use Technology for Teachable Moments
Families are spending more time in front of screens (TV, smartphones, tablets, etc.). While limiting screen time can be good, you can also use onscreen situations as teachable moments — at the commercial, on a snack break or after the movie discuss key situations with your children. Allow your children to ask questions, think of good and bad options the character could have chosen to make and what would be your child’s solution to the problem.
For instance, if you see a child being made fun of or picked on in a video or on TV. Ask your child why he thinks the children are making fun of the child and what might they be feeling. Next, ask what the child in the show did in response to being teased and how might the child feel. This is the first steps toward allowing your child to take the perspective of others, even those people he doesn’t agree with or understand.
Find teaching moments to help your child learn to calmly solve conflicts. Let’s say, there is a news story about people with conflicting opinions or ideologies, ask your teen-aged daughter how she might disagree with someone in a way that show she cares about their feelings and respects their rights to have different ideas.
If your child should see someone being discriminated against perhaps because they are poor, or dressed differently or their skin color, religion or national origin are different use this as a teaching moment. Ask your children to put themselves in that persons place list things they have in common and the things that are different. Work with your child to think of what to say and do the next time they are faced with hatred.
We are living in a time when we must sow the seeds of unity; we must promote acceptance and love. Of course, every parent hopes to raise tolerant, accepting children, but they need to understand that “hope” begins with us.
If you’re looking for more information, the parenting experts at Boys Town have developed a Guide to Teaching Tolerance, which is available free online and contains quick tips, articles, videos and more.
If you’re concerned about your child’s interaction with others, we encourage you to call the Boys Town National Hotline at (800) 448-3000 to speak with a child behavior expert.