Your child comes to you and tells you that her best friend’s dad is a Muslim and because he wears what looks like a dress and a towel on his head some children in the play ground made fun of her. She also informs you that kids tease her as well because of her beliefs.
Our children need to learn, that picking a side of any subject is essential and builds character; but they also have to learn not to judge someone who is on the other side of their opinion. Every person has the right to their own beliefs, whether in religion, how to raise their child, or lifestyles, as long as they are not harming anyone. If we truly believe in tolerance then we need to teach our child that others are allowed the same privilege. In other words, we do not need to give up having our own beliefs and/or opinions in order to be tolerant. In fact how can we teach our children tolerance of other people who might be different in how they think and believe, if they do not have a solid hold on what they personally think and believe?
We have become so wishy washy in own beliefs and opinions because we feel that is the only way not to offend others. We have to let our yes’s be yes and our no’s be no. And we have to be accountable for what we believe and do. Not only do you have a right to an opinion, as a parent you have the right to teach your children why you believe what you believe. What you don’t have a right to do is force your beliefs on them or anyone else.
- So what is the best way to help our child have solid thoughts on things and yet be tolerant?
I believe that answer is to allow them to think independently while still maintaining your own house rules and beliefs. More than likely your children will not agree with every house rule you have, but if you allow them to disagree with them, but still insist they follow your rules while they live at home you are teaching tolerance and values such as how to respect those in authority over you.
- How can we allow our children to think independently while teaching tolerance of your rules?
In order for this process to be effective and so your children will learn to think and process things out, you have to allow your children the right to have a difference of opinion without feeling judgement from you even at a young age. This is extremely important or they won’t express themselves to you and you will lose the opportunity to teach tolerance. We need to be aware of what we are teaching our children and what example they see if we decide to be stubborn by not allowing them to be unique and think differently?
There is a fine line between a child asking questions out of inquisitiveness or asking questions out of defiance. What we have to figure out as parents is how to allow them to have a difference of opinion but still expect our house rules to be followed.
Let’s say, for example that your child doesn’t agree with making their bed every day. They believe that it is a waste of their time as they are going to be getting back into bed in a few hours. Your house rules are that they are to make their bed every day because you believe tidiness is a bigger lesson than time management. In all things, it is important for you to set the example, in this case by making your bed every day.
Having your reasons established in your mind and repeating them as often as is necessary is essential if you want your children to learn how to rationalize their own set of standards to live by. They will challenge what you think and believe as often as they can. However by allowing your children to interact with you regarding this will teach them that you have your reasons and it will teach them that you do not have a set of rules just because you are the parent and can do whatever you want. Understand; asking questions is not defiance on their part. If after the discussion they decided not to make their bed, that’s defiance!
As my children have grown, I have continued to have even longer and more serious discussions regarding issues much more important than bed making. I love these discussions. I love that I have taught them independent thinking. I do not want them to grow up to be a robot, or another ‘mini me’. I want them to have solid reasons for doing what they feel is right, believing what they believe is right and to live according to those beliefs.
There are 3 positive things that come out of allowing healthy discussions on subjects you might not agree on.
1. It will show them where you stand on any given subject and why you believe what you do. If it is a subject you have discussed often they will also see your steadfastness in what you believe.
2. It will help them solidify where they stand on any given subject and will teach them to understand why they believe what they do.
3. Your children can learn it is ok to be wrong as long as you are growing and trying to continue to learn. Admitting when you are wrong will teach them you are not so set in your ways that you cannot change if you have been shown something more viable. Seeing you are willing to admit when you are wrong will help solidify that when you stay solid on a subject, you are not doing so out of stubbornness, but out of confidence or belief.
When our children become adults, they more than anyone, should be able to expect and deserve the right to be treated as such and you no longer should expect them to live the way you have lived. What you can do is hope that they can see by your example that your way of thinking or your beliefs lead to good results in your life. This hopefully will result in them being willing to learn from you and follow your example. Judging those that might not agree with you, including your children, puts you in the position where you are not being tolerant, and you need to say to yourself….’judge not lest I be judged’.