Teaching Our Children About Tolerance and Kindness

As parents, it is our job to teach our children to always be kind and tolerant of others. A few weeks ago, my oldest son graduated from elementary school along with 58 children from his grade. Their class was fortunate to have graduated with some amazing children who have special needs. Children with Cerebral Palsy, Autism, and other challenging disorders were amongst their class of 2012. For many kids who have not been exposed to different children at an early age, these disorders can be scary and misunderstood. To this class it was not. As I looked into the bleachers and saw the children high fiving each other after singing their songs, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed with emotion to see how much the students cared about their fellow classmates who needed a little extra TLC over the last six years.

young girl in wheelchairHere is some important advice I think all parents can benefit from to enrich the lives of their children:

– Be a role model. Kids look to their parents to mirror how they should behave around kids that are different. If you are accepting, they will be too.

– It’s easy to do nothing. We all get busy with our daily lives and forget that sometimes people have it tougher than we do. If you go out of your way for others, it truly can make a difference.

– Be a leader and your child will be one too. Set up a play date with someone who you know doesn’t get asked all the time. It will make their day and yours too. It feels good to do something kind for others.

– Watch; your good example will inspire others and quickly your friends will follow suit. This is one way in which your friend’s can copy you in a “good” way.

– Teach your kids about children who are different. Parents should address wheelchairs, walkers, as well kid’s that display uncommon behaviors. Kids have questions and once they are answered appropriately they “get it”.

– Exposure is key. If your school is filled with only mainstream students, volunteer somewhere with your child. Reach out to family or friends that would welcome the gift of meeting someone new and special.

– Not everyone is born the same and that is OK. It is our job as parents to teach our children to treat all types of children with respect and kindness.

– Remember the old saying your mother told you, ”Don’t judge a book by its cover”. What someone looks like on the outside is often very different from who they are on the inside.

– Tell your child that it is important to reach out and help a child who is struggling. It will feel so good to really make a difference in another child’s day. Wouldn’t you want someone to do this if it were your child who needed this?

– Show your child that these types of kids are more similar than different to them. Explain that no matter what someone looks like on the outside, children have so many things about them that are the same. Whether it’s swimming, ice cream, video games, or a movie, find a way for them to connect on some level. Finding similarities can be instrumental in helping your child see that kids with special needs are really children just like them.

Having your child connect with a child with special needs is mutually beneficial. The parents that have a child with challenges will be so grateful to have a friend reach out and make an effort. Think about how good it will make your child feel to know they made someone feel included and understood. To me, there is an incredible sense of pride I feel when I see my own child go over to a child that has challenges and give them a warm smile and a high five. Kids who have tolerance, respect, and acceptance at an early age will realize how very special and needed those qualities are throughout their life.

Stefanie Weiss
Mental Health Consultant
Follow Stefanie on Twitter at @askstefanie and Like the ASK STEFANIE page on Facebook


6 thoughts on “Teaching Our Children About Tolerance and Kindness

  1. Tolerance and kindness are two of the important virtues or qualities that we love our children to discover and attain in the life, and it is so truth that we have to show it to our children that how tolerance and kindness look like, sound like and how they feel like in the daily life.

  2. My son was at a school for special needs and you are quite right about the tolerance and respect it develops. When he was about 7, if there was a disabled person at the side of the road asking for money, he would insist on giving this but would also engage the person in conversation asking how he happened to be in this position. Jo was a wonder to watch in these situations. Experience in mainstream school was very different. Differences were targeted in a big way. Jo eventually finished his school education at home. Yours Moyra

  3. This is a fantastic article! I love that the author brings in the idea that articles about special needs are not just for families with special needs. Everyone should be educated on tolerance and the differences that lie between each person we meet. I have had the honor of working with some amazing teachers that work very hard to promote tolerance and connect kids that seem to be a bit disconnected from their peers. It is a heartwarming feeling to know that there are such amazing educators out there!

  4. Loved this article. So important to teach children kindness to others especially to those with special needs……a very important life lesson!!!!!

  5. What an awesome article. Let’s hope many read this and reach out to others!!!!
    What a better world this would be.!!!!!!!

  6. Outstanding reflection of how to learn, understand and treat those with special needs and challenges. Further, I feel this also provides great insight on how to learn, understand and treat anyone when we face differences of all kinds. I remember a simple phrase my son learned in his special needs preschool: “Be safe & be kind.” So many things in life boil down to just that, don’t they? Tolerance and kindness are definitely two of life’s greatest gifts we can share with one another. Thank you for sharing this. I look forward to passing these great thoughts along to others.

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