There are many forms of intolerance. Intolerance for adults can be different than intolerance for kids. It is just the form that it comes in that makes it different. Regardless, definition of intolerance is the unwillingness to accept views, beliefs, or behavior that differs from our own. The key words in that sentence is “differs from our own.” It amazes me that no two people look alike in their thought process, even identical twins. We are born to think on our own and make our own decisions. Somewhere along the way of growing up we are taught that pushing what we believe is the truth.
As I have aged and grown-up, I have learned that there are three things to never talk about with other people: religion, politics, and money. If you are looking to get into an argument quickly with someone, then choose one of these three topics. You will be in an argument faster than you can say argument. Why? Because as the definition of intolerance says “differs from our own” people have a passion about these topics that burns a fire inside of them. When someone is passionate about their religion or their political party or the subject of money, it is a very innate passion that they will defend to no end. So why start if there is no end? As adults we learn this.
Unfortunately, with our children it takes time to teach them that there is “no end so don’t start.” From the beginning I have taught both of my children that it doesn’t matter where someone comes from, or if they have a disability, or if they speak another language. It is ok if they don’t want to play with your toy or the same game on the playground. What I want them to understand is that when someone treats you with kindness you treat them with kindness.
Every night at dinner my husband and I ask our children if anyone in school made them feel angry or sad today. If there was something where they felt one of these emotions, we talk about why they felt this way. What was it that was specifically done to you that made you feel that way. We talk about other scenarios that are similar that they should keep an eye out for. Not just for themselves, but if it happens to other friends or children around them. If they see this behavior to let that friend or child know that they have felt the same way and it is ok.
Now you might be thinking I am not teaching my kids to stand up for themselves. There is where that whole “no end so don’t start” comes in for me teaching them tolerance. Not only do we talk about the action that made them feel that emotion, we talk about why they think the kid did that to them. Maybe the kid was defending themselves, maybe someone else just upset them so they were taking it out on someone else, or maybe the kid was just being mean or bullying. Understanding why they did the action can help my kids understand how to react to the action. Sometimes for them there will be no end.
One million people can have one million views on the same topic. It isn’t about convincing everyone that your view is right. It is about listening to other people’s views to see what you can learn. I tell my kids that they need to learn about their friends and their friends likes. It may surprise them what new things they can learn.