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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Family Values: Tolerance

How to Raise a Tolerant Child:
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A tolerant person accepts diversity and doesn't prejudge others on the basis of religion, race, or gender. If we are to live in harmony with others and seek cooperative solutions to conflicts, we need to focus more on our common humanity than on our differences. Tolerance also involves being flexible and accepting that others have the right to be who they are. How a person treats those who appear different depends to a large extent on what he or she is taught in childhood. Here’s how parents can teach tolerance to children.

Help Your Child Get Used to New People:
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Babies are blissfully unaware of other people’s differences. But fairly soon they start to discriminate between parents and others. At that point clinginess and stranger anxiety are common. But there are ways to help your child feel more secure with others. Start by allowing some transition time before you leave your child with an unfamiliar caregiver. Be sure to let kids spend time with other adults while you’re around to help them get comfortable with different ways of looking and acting.

Introduce Diversity:
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It’s normal for young kids to notice how people look—short, tall, thin, fat, skin color, and gender differences. These new perceptions stem from a growing sense of their own physical identity as well as their keen curiosity about the world. Observe and respond to their curiosity. For example, if your child points to a child whose hair is very different from hers, you can say, "He has straight hair, and you have curly hair." Make sure your child has dolls, puppets, puzzles, books, and other toys that show characters of different races and cultures.

Handle Embarrassing Moments:
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Children may go through a stage of commenting loudly and embarrassingly on physical differences--"Why is that girl brown?"--but there is no malice or prejudice intended. How a parent responds is key to preventing prejudice. It's best to keep explanations simple, concrete, and positive--"She has beautiful dark skin because her mommy and daddy have dark skin." It's also important to explain to kids that loud comments about someone's appearance can hurt that person's feeling. So tell them to ask questions quietly or wait until they get home.

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