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tol·er·ance
noun
1. A fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one's own; freedom from bigotry.
dictionary.com

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 individual differences.

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.
 3) 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.
5)
Be knowledgeable; provide as much accurate information as possible to reject harmful myths and stereotypes. Discuss as a family the impact of prejudicial attitudes and behavior.
6) 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.*
7) 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 fears.
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.

RESOURCES
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 from 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
dedicated to 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.

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