Teaching Your Child Tolerance
The other day my daughter asked me if one of her stuffed animals was a boy or a girl. She asked me because it was dressed in a blue-stripped shirt and matching hat, but my stepmom placed a tutu on it because she wanted my daughter to have it. Upon receiving the gift my daughter couldn’t play with it until she was able to identify it. This is something that is prevalent in our cultural to this day, the need to identify one another. I asked my daughter what she thought the stuffed monkey was and she told me it was dressed like a boy but because it had a skirt on she was going to call it a girl. I try really hard to recognize teachable moments with my daughter. I want to make sure that she understands and is tolerant of those who are different from her. She is growing up in a completely different society than I did as a child. She will go to school with children who have same sex parents, transgender, ect. Those things were not prevalent as often or celebrated for that matter when I was in school. I want her to be able to function in a society made of diversity and complexity. I believe in teaching your children your own household rules, beliefs and acceptable behaviors. I also believe it is important to communicate with your child honestly about the different ways people live and how it’s important to be tolerant of those differences.
It makes me think of the idea of what’s acceptable in our culture. We live in a country that is a complete melting pot of cultures, religions and beliefs. However because the country was captured and ruled by western ideas, people still hold those ideas. Some things that come natural to us and have been apart of our subconscious are pounded out by “what’s normal”. The idea that we have to look a certain way to get a job, or dress a certain way to be respected, its really sad if you think about it. This mentality is even prevalent amongst children, with something so simple as the need to identify the gender of a toy. I feel indifferent with the need for people to announce their sexuality, religions or race for any job or position. I don’t understand why people need to know those things before they are able to establish a way to treat you as person. I will never be able to keep up with the many different lifestyles that exist on this planet, but I can teach my child tolerance for all. I have so many different friends with different lifestyles and it doesn’t affect the way I think.
Growing up I was the only one of my friends at school who was Muslim, wore my hair natural, was a vegetarian and went to African dance/cultural class. I never let it bother me when people didn’t understand why I packed my lunch everyday and didn’t eat at fast food restaurants. Or why I never felt the need to get a relaxer and was very comfortable with my big curly hair in school. I never felt the need to explain myself or justify my behavior. I also never questioned my friends why they did the things they did. Nor did I have a desire to join them at church or eating meat during lunch while I ate my mom’s homemade falafel and pita. I understand some people feel it necessary to only hang around those who share the same faith as them, but I only focus on values. I want the people around me to value other human life as I do. So that is what I teach my child every single day, that human life is valuable. She can’t point at strangers or laugh at people’s voices, disabilities or difference. I teach her every time she makes an innocent remark the proper things to say. Every moment is a teachable moment, and the more we teach or children tolerance, the more we contribute to the betterment of this world.