Nelson Mandela once said: “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite”.
So how do we, as parents, teach love and tolerance to our children? How do we teach them to respect everyone regardless of their race, religion, culture or creed? How do we ensure that our rainbow nation is a melting pot of love and not one of hatred, suspicion and intolerance?
The answer to this question is simple if you understand how your children are learning from you. Remember, that particularly when they are little, your kids are like sponges and the ‘water’ that they’re absorbing is what you are living. It is not what you say to them that matters, but how you follow this through with action. They are constantly making assumptions about the world and other people based on how they see you interacting.
So if you want your children to learn tolerance and acceptance of all people, then you need to be living this yourself. Ask yourself this question, and be sure to be entirely honest with yourself as you do: Do you treat every human being equally?
The majority of people that I come across these days will say that they are not racist or bigoted in any way. However, if you watch them closely you will see an innate judgement playing out in their daily lives. They will completely ignore the beggar at the traffic lights like he doesn’t even exist, they will speak differently to the waitress or cashier than they do to other people, they will even speak to their children in a way that suggests that they are somehow not as deserving of respect and recognition as someone twice their age or size.
Simply telling our children that all people are equal is not enough. We need to genuinely treat each person as sacred by the very fact that they are alive and have worth as a human being – not because of their job title or status in society or size or colour or level of wealth. Every person deserves respect and acknowledgement simply by the very fact that they are. If you are not doing this then you are teaching your children intolerance. You are teaching them that some people are more worthy than others. You are teaching them that we are not all equal.
Are you ok with that? If not, it is you that needs to change, and this change will teach your children more than a thousand lessons at school about equality and reconciliation and building a rainbow nation. All children are born loving everyone unconditionally, and it is from you that they learn to do otherwise.
Live a different way, teach a different lesson, and be the change you want to see in your kids!