Clinical Psychologist Dr Deepa Sankar, from NMC Speciality Hospital Dubai, says children from the age of 7 need to be inculcated with values of tolerance as value systems begin to be formed in children from this age.
1) Practise conscious parenting with children where parents need to practise what they want their children to follow. Children usually subconsciously imbibe parental behaviour. If parents demonstrate intolerance to religion, culture or class but want their child to be tolerant that will not happen. Children model their behaviour on their parents’ behaviour.
2) Teach the child perspective taking. This involves encouraging the child to be aware that it is possible to have different opinions or perspective on the same thing and one must be able to respect the differences.
3) Practise warm or ‘reasoning’ parenting. In other words while dealing with their child, parents cannot be authoritarian. Be open enough to explain and reason out on issues rather than silencing the child with fear of authority
4) Teach the child pro-social behaviour, which means involving the child in community initiatives. The child learns that he has to be kind and patient. He will learn empathy and also know that people can be different and it is ok to be different from one another.
5) Do not resort to physical abuse in disciplining your child. The child will get the message that it is okay to be emotional or aggressive rather than rational problem-solving
6) Practise ‘mindful and aware’ parenting. Parents need to make sure they do not demonstrate knee-jerk or impulsive behaviour and consciously think and plan things as children learn this from parents.
7) It is important to praise your child when he demonstrates tolerance in his behaviour in order to reinfrorce the training to be become part of his natural behaviour.
8) Teach the child coping strategies. If at all he faces intolerance in society, train him to be able to distract himself and look at ‘problem solving’ rather than giving an emotional response to the situation.
9) Teach your child that it is okay to be angry but not okay to be aggressive. Being aggressive or physical in a situation is violation of boundary and the child must respect boundaries.
10) Include tolerance as a school subject. It is very important that the child is taught tolerance in school and whatever values the child picks up at home is reinforced in school where children spend more than 5-6 hours of their waking time.
Dr Saliha Afridi, PsyD. (US), Clinical Psychologist, Managing Director, The Lighthouse Arabia, provides simple ways for parents to be strong role models on tolerance:
1) Model tolerance. There is no bigger influence on a child’s mindset and their tolerance for those who are different, than the parent. When you speak about people that are different to you, do so kindly. Being tolerant does not mean you are agreement with that culture, religion or individual. It just means that you respect people who are different to you.
2) Ask the school to talk about the different holidays with the students. Discuss the significance of Christmas, Holi, Eid and use those times as opportunities to teach children more about the different people that are in their community.
3) Travel as much as you can to new places. Parents can often find a favorite vacation spot and go there year after year. Prioritize building the character of children by immersing them into new cultures, different places with different values and traditions. Pick a new country every year.
4) Use entertainment technology wisely. There are lots of movies and documentaries that you can watch together as families which encourage tolerance. You can also be educate them on netiquette, and being tolerant and mannered online.
5) Involve kids in volunteering or community activities where diversity is present. This can be cultural, socioeconomic, religious, or ethnic diversity. Try to make it a weekly ritual or a repeated behavior so the values you are trying to instill get ingrained.
6) Teach them about their own heritage and their own family tradition. People who are grounded in their own traditions, and feel proud of their heritage will be more respectful to others.
7) When children get older have conversations about what you see in news. How do the feel about things that are happening? What would they do to resolve those issue? Do they agree or disagree? Why? Have them articulate their values and be able to defend them when questioned.
8) Be mindful of the small moments. Parents sometimes forget that the teaching happens in the most ordinary day to day moments. How you speak to the waiter, how do you treat the bathroom attendant, what you say to the guy who cut you off on the road. Are you being respectful ? Are you being kind ? It is in those moments children learn how to behave with others.
9) When you see intolerant behavior in your children don’t overreact and don’t shame them. Talk to them and use it as a learning opportunity.