1. A fair,
objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race,
religion, nationality, etc., differ from one's own; freedom from bigotry.
The face of South
Dakota is changing (see chart) and our
children need the skills to cope with more change in the future. The value of
tolerance often refers to racial differences, but it also applies to gender,
age, physical/mental abilities, sexual orientation and weight – in short, any
characteristic that sets groups of people apart.
The simplest way of
understanding tolerance is substituting the word ‘empathy’. Working with
children, tweens and teens to help them understand how their attitudes and
actions affect others helps prepare them for a future full of diverse people.
The following tips are
compiled from a variety of resources. Explore
these ideas and incorporate some into your family’s life. Remember, developing
the life skill of tolerance is complicated and challenging. It won’t happen
overnight but will grow throughout a child’s growing up years. The most
effective way to teach tolerance is to model the quality. Encourage and support
your children so they can grow into responsible adults who accept and celebrate
1) Examine your
attitudes and the way you feel about people with traits and characteristics
different from your own. If you want your child to be free of prejudice, you
need to demonstrate that attitude in your words and deeds.
2) Be mindful of your language; avoid stereotypical remarks and
challenge those made by others.
Know your roots and share
your pride in your heritage with others. As a family, learn about your
heritage. Did your ancestors emigrate from another country? Were they ever
discriminated against? Throughout our history, many groups have been persecuted
because of their heritage, and helping your children learn about their ancestry
will increase their sensitivity of and appreciation for differences.
4) Speak out against jokes and slurs that target people or groups.
Silence sends a message that you are in agreement. It is not enough to refuse to
laugh. Don’t tolerate inappropriate language or humor. If your teen or others
tell distasteful jokes about race, sex or culture, this is the chance to talk
about your own values and why you will not tolerate such language or humor.
provide as much accurate information as possible to reject harmful myths and
stereotypes. Discuss as a family the impact of prejudicial attitudes and
Plan family outings to
diverse neighborhoods in and around your community and visit local museums,
galleries and exhibits that celebrate art forms of different cultures.*
Read and encourage your
children to read books that promote understanding of different cultures as well
as those that are written by authors of diverse backgrounds.
8) Encourage your teen to talk with you about tolerance and character.
Make it an ongoing conversation. For example, one discussion could be about “how
do you think it feels to be different.”
9) Be specific when you talk about tolerance. General statements such as
“all prejudice is wrong” won’t explain anything to your children. To understand
what prejudice is, they need to talk about the differences they see and draw
informed conclusions with adult input.
10) Start conversations about differences. Acknowledge that some people
have ideas about others that seem to be prejudiced or that you find troubling.
They may even be suspicious or afraid. Talk about how people deal with these
11) As a family, take part in celebrations or community festivals that
feature different foods, music and customs. In addition to local multicultural
festivals, there are also wacipi (pow wows) around South Dakota.
12) Encourage volunteer experiences that expose your family to people who
are from different racial, religious or ability groups. Volunteer at a homeless
shelter or food pantry. Real life experiences can teach a lot.
13) Weed out stereotypes in your life, and talk to your child about how
misleading stereotypes can be. When you see a negative stereotype in the media,
bring attention to it. You might even hear your child repeat common stereotypes,
including gender-specific occupations, for example. "Only girls are nurses," or
"Only boys are policemen." Use these comments as springboards for discussions.
14) Support your children when they are the victims of intolerance.
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 of name-calling.
15) Foster a healthy understanding of group identities. Especially 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.
16) 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 present - people
of different races/ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, family structures,
etc. Encourage a child to spend time with elders - grandparents, for example.
Attend religious services at a variety of houses of worship.
17) 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.
18) 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.
19) Practice tolerance. Show patience and forgiveness. Overlook the
faults of others. Be flexible. Don’t degrade others because they don’t think,
look or act the same way you do. Gently remind your children to do the same.
20) Model the behavior 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. Do your actions match the values you profess to believe in? Children and
teens are more likely to be influenced by what you do than what you say, so it's
important for your words and behaviors to match.
Sioux Falls Human Relations
Sioux Falls Youth at Work
101 Ways to Combat Prejudice from Barnes & Noble and the Anti-Defamation
League A PDF of their brochure is available for free download.
Teens and Tolerance Prepared by Colleen Gengler, Family Relations
Specialist, 2000. Reviewed by Ellie McCann, Family Relations Specialist, 2005
for University of Minnesota Extension Service.
Color Blindness – Teaching Children to Celebrate Diversity By Lisa Lansman
for IParenting Preteen & Teen
Teaching Tolerance – Tips for the Teen Years and
10 Ways to NURTURE TOLERANCE
TOLERANCE.ORG - A web project of the Southern Poverty Law Center
Teaching Diversity from FamilyEducation has tips for raising prejudice-free
children from toddlers on up.
Great Dreams - Learn about Native American Culture across the nation.
Fascinating and informative information in a family-friendly format.
UNICEF Voices of Youth – A United Nation’s sponsored site
allowing young people from all countries to learn more, say more and do more
about the world they live in. This is a family safe site with opportunities for
children and teens to interact with peers from more than 100 countries.