* Teach Tolerance to Combat Bullying

By Joan Carie, LCSW, LCAC, Courier & Press, June 6, 2017 –

It is not uncommon these days to hear stories about bullying in schools.  Most schools have a zero tolerance policy for bully behaviors.  When addressing the problem of school bullying, it may be helpful to look deeper into what drives this type of behavior.

A quick look into our history finds that America is known as the great melting pot, encompassing a worldwide blend of cultural traditions and founded on freedoms and tolerance of differences.  If we focus on the positives of this rich diversity, we come to view our differences as opportunities to discover new ideas and values that can enhance our lives.

If, however, we focus on differences from the perspective of no value for cultural diversity and a “my way or the highway” attitude, then we have become narrowly focused; our ability to have tolerance and empathy for differences significantly decreases.  When empathy and tolerance are lacking, we are living in a perfect environment to foster bullying.

These intolerances have serious implications for our youth.  The American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou said, “Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible.”

Children 3-6 are able to stereotype groups of people and can recognize blatant discrimination.  Children 6-10 become increasingly aware of others’ prejudices and can recognize the more subtle forms of discrimination, and by the teens years, these prejudices become internalized to eventually become part of the adult psyche.

Perhaps if we focus on tolerance, loving kindness and compassion in our own lives and live as examples to our children, we can reduce intolerance and bullying in our schools.

Some ways to foster tolerance with our children include:

  1. Teach love first.  Show examples of loving others despite the existence of differences.  Reach out a helping hand to others even if they are different.
  2. Be familiar with and acknowledge the values and biases you have.  It is important to evaluate ourselves in terms of our own beliefs and the differences we struggle with tolerating.
  3. Exposure to differences throughout childhood teaches children they do not have to agree with others in order to respect others.
  4. Allow children to explore other cultures and different viewpoints.  This can teach children an appreciation and respect for others while allowing them the freedom to express their own views and values.
  5. When intolerance rears its ugly head, including through media and social interactions, take the opportunity to challenge it.  We can teach our children to not endorse or participate in jokes that promote stereotyping, belittling or degrading others.

When children are confident and secure with themselves, they don’t feel threatened by differences.  To the contrary, they are comfortable and able to engage with others in spite of the differences that exist.

When looking at the bigger picture, if we can shift our focus to celebrating our differences we may take a huge step toward combating an ever-increasing concern, school bullying.

* Teaching Tolerance to Children is Vital *

By Jordan Beach, MSW, Courier & Press, December 27, 2016 –

Now, more than ever, we live in a world where global interaction is normal, and even expected, in many fields of work. This trend will continue to grow, so it is important to raise children to be accepting and tolerant of cultures and norms different than their own.

Children are taught about other cultures in school, but as far as molding a child into a tolerant human being, most of the responsibility falls on the parents or caregivers.

The primary way for a parent to teach this is by example. Your children are going to model your behavior. If you show respect for people of all races, genders and religions, your child will learn to do that too.

It is very difficult to teach your child to respect others if you are not doing it yourself. The way you speak to (and about) a person from another culture does not go unnoticed by your child. Make sure you always treat others with respect and dignity so your children learn to do the same.

Don’t be afraid to talk about differences with your children. At times it seems as though people get embarrassed when their children point out different physical characteristics, races or ethnicities. The truth is, there are a lot of races, cultures and ethnicities in the world. Your child is simply learning through observation and pointing this out.

It is a positive thing to have conversations with your child about these differences and encourage them to be accepting of everyone — no matter what they look like. Diversity makes our world a great place, and introducing this to your child will help them become a better-rounded individual.

Helping your child build their own confidence is also a tremendous help. People who are comfortable in their own skin and confident about their own lives are more likely to be tolerant of the lives others choose to live.

 This is true of children too. If you celebrate your child’s uniqueness and happiness, they will radiate joy to those around them. They will be less consumed with the differences of others because they are comfortable being themselves.

Allow your child to have experiences in diverse settings. Sign them up for camps or clubs that will support your goal of raising a tolerant child. When possible, travel together. Seeing different ways people live will help your child be more aware that everyone’s lives don’t look like theirs.

Children grow up so fast. As parents, it is our job to prepare them for their futures to the best of our abilities. Raising your child to be tolerant of others is a huge step in raising a successful child.

Besides preparing them for success in an ever-changing global economy, having this strength will allow your child to build positive relationships throughout life.