By Mia Barnes
Guest Writer for Wake Up World
The world is a scary, chaotic place right now. Between a global pandemic, social injustice and political unrest, it’s easy to feel insignificant and overwhelmed. However, your job as a parent never stops, even when it seems like everything is spinning out of control. In this time of confusion, it’s more important than ever to practice and teach respect and tolerance.
As America rapidly evolves into a more racially and ethnically diverse country, these two ideals will play an integral part in creating a safe space where everyone is welcome. It’s up to you to pass them on to your children.
1. Create a Safe Space
Showering your kids in love and affection will make them feel valued and safe. This sense of security allows them to experience new situations with excitement rather than fear and stress. They’ll also be more willing to extend acceptance to others when they experience it firsthand. Create opportunities in familiar settings so they can practice respect and tolerance without feeling threatened. Hosting playdates with young friends and outings with other families is a good place to start.
2. Give Kids a Choice
Show your children you care about their opinions and preferences by giving them a voice in decision-making processes. Let them choose what to eat for dinner, which tunes to play in the car and where to go for ice cream. These age-appropriate decisions will grant them some autonomy and remind them that their point of view has value and is worth considering. In turn, they’ll find it easier to listen to and respect others’ feelings and ideas.
3. Be a Good Listener
When your little ones have something to say, close your laptop, put down your phone and listen. Respect them enough to give them your full attention, even if that means hearing all about dinosaurs for the umpteenth time today. Express interest and ask follow-up questions. Doing so will nurture their curiosity so they’re more inquisitive when speaking to others. Being a good listener will also convey empathy and teach them to express the same sentiment in their conversations with friends and family.
4. Resolve Conflict Calmly
Validating kids’ feelings is important, but that shouldn’t take precedence over preserving justice. For instance, if your little ones don’t play by the rules during a baseball game, they must suffer the consequences and sit out. At home, this might look like acknowledging their anger but still giving them a time out. Try to remain patient with yourself and them as you work to resolve conflict calmly. In doing so, you’ll teach them to respect authority and pursue justice.
5. Practice Good Manners
Good manners never go out of style. Teach proper etiquette and phrases like “please” and “thank you” so kids know how to respond respectfully, regardless of who they’re talking to. You’ll also want to help them take responsibility for their actions by providing phrases like “I’m sorry” and “will you forgive me?” As they learn how to tolerate and respect others, these words will help mend relationships and heal wounds — accidental or not.
6. Kindly Check Their Ego
When your kids act or speak disrespectfully, it’s your responsibility to kindly call them out. How else will they learn to be respectful and tolerant? Check their ego by modeling limit-setting and pointing out bad behavior. For example, if you accidentally break their toy and they call you stupid, explain how their words make you feel to show how their disrespect can affect others. Ask for an apology, too.
7. Teach Self-Respect
To love others, you must first love yourself. As an adult, you know that accepting and respecting your physical and emotional well-being is key to extending that same tolerance to others. Help your kids build self-esteem by teaching self-respect. Show them actionable ways to invest in their mental and physical health and give them tools to practice them on their own. In time, they’ll build confidence and learn to respect and tolerate themselves and others.
8. Get Involved
One of the best ways to put respect and tolerance into action is to join a social justice movement. Support others in their quest for mutual respect by joining a movement supporting civil justice. Fight for others’ rights at home by making posters and art or videos to share on social media. These activities will teach kids tolerance firsthand and encourage them to respect everyone, regardless of their identity or beliefs.
Reinforcing Tolerance and Respect
Aside from modeling respect and tolerance yourself, using positive language is the most effective way to reinforce these concepts and behaviors in your kids. Praise your little ones whenever they respond kindly and graciously. Avoid punishing or criticizing them, and offer helpful alternatives whenever they act out.
Acknowledging their progress, effort and attitude will motivate them to keep trying, even when they fail. Ultimately, this “try again” mindset will help children become more accepting and tolerant as the world continues to change.
About the author:
Mia Barnes is an online journalist and Editor in Chief at Body + Mind.