Keeping the dying Art of Tolerance alive in Children

Published On  October 7, 2015 By
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“It is but a fallacy that the world with its passive aggression and sullenness will attempt to make us feel any better. The sordid truth is that the goodness & simplicity that was once in abundance, is now being nibbled away by negative influences.” – Chandini Ann Khanna, Some Me Time

Don’t get me wrong please – what I have mentioned above is only to reiterate what we probably know is true. Our children must understand that the world would not have the time to sort things out for us immediately and it is the onus of each one to remain focused. The quote is meant to reiterate the fact that tolerance among people is needed more than ever and we must never allow the negativity to overcome us.

As parents, our concern for them is justified and it is our desire that we give an environment where they can relax and be open to learning from those around us. Children are willing learners and through tolerance, they can open even more doors and opportunities in future. Tolerance is crucial to survive in the world, to be able to work with others in places of work and in life. It is important that our children are happy to respect and appreciate the talents and skills of others. It is called the ‘art’ of tolerance since it is difficult to balance tolerance with acceptance of bad and disrespectful behaviour in the garb of tolerance itself.

Tolerance, I believe, is about acknowledging people as they are and treating others as they would want to be ‘treated’. Without tolerance, an already frenzied paced life that is riddled with challenges, would become unbearable.

Having said the above, I would like to tell the children (and my friends out there with kids to discuss this with them) that tolerance does not mean in any way that you sacrifice or change who you are, to make people like you. Tolerance is about standing out in your own special and distinct way and yet accepting the sea of differences in people around you. Parents – that is us, must teach our children tolerance through example since they will emulate us whether we want it or not. We understand that life is tough, but when we display tolerance and resilience in our everyday lives and appreciate the qualities and differences in others, they too will develop this quality. It is impossible to force tolerance on our kids – they need to ‘see’ it to learn it.

I have seen that what worked for me was the fact that I took time to answer patiently my daughter’s incessant questions. She was (and still is) exceedingly curious and observant in her growing years and so each time she noticed something different (to what she knew from home and her parents) she just had to know why and how.

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Even when I would be very tired after a long day, I had to remain calm and ‘tolerant’ of these questions and answer them to the best of my ability. Her teachers at school would often comment as to how patiently she would interact with the other children – especially the ones who required more time to grasp things being taught and yes, she would be happy to answer the one single question that I had each day (what happened at school?) with enthusiasm and tolerance.

It’s important that we as parents treat others with respect and be accepting of their foibles and obvious differences – this is especially true for when dealing with household help and with other such people. For example – the garbage pickup boy would be shouted at by the neighbours and their children would mirror their behaviour and in addition would laugh at him. It was quite disturbing and I spoke to them politely and asked them to stop ill-treating him. When they stopped, their children stopped too. It is sad that such basic humanity is missing and tolerance seems to be ebbing – we as parents must make it a point to ensure that our children grow up to be responsible people. Being tolerant is just one small yet indispensable part of displaying strength of character.

It is critical to teach kids to first value themselves and their families. Children that grow with a feeling of being disrespected and devalued, will never be able treat others with tolerance. We must encourage them to ‘celebrate’ and have a sense of pride for every accomplishment and triumph, however small. Your child received the top prize in recitation, her drawing was selected to be pinned to the main notice board in her classroom, the kids in the class clapped because she answered the maximum number of questions, at home she picked up her plate after eating and washed it – these are reasons to celebrate – they instill pride and act as catalysts for good behaviour and self-esteem.

Like with all other behaviours, tolerance begins with us. If we wish to inculcate acceptance of others while maintaining their own dignity and pride, we must lead by example – they will follow suit.

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