Talk to Your Kids

Inclusivity: How to talk to your kids about Tolerance and Acceptance

Why teach tolerance and acceptance?

During the formative years, it is important for parents and teachers to help kids discover the beauty and power of diversity, and adopt an attitude of tolerance and acceptance.

Kids learn about the world in small steps, focusing first on recognizing images, sounds, objects, and people. From an early age, attitudes like approval, tolerance, and acceptance quickly emerge as children reflect the mindsets expressed by family members.

Presenting positive mindsets like tolerance and acceptance will nourish curiosity, empathy, patience, and flexibility.

By talking about and demonstrating acceptance of diversity, you will encourage respect for others as well as a deeper understanding of self.

Mom and dad hug daughter before bed.

What it is:

Tolerance and acceptance refers to an attitude of openness and respect for the differences that exist among people, including race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and people with physical, mental, or intellectual disabilities. It focuses on learning from one another, valuing cultural differences, rejecting stereotypes, and respecting one another.

What it is not:

Tolerance and acceptance is not about accepting bad behavior. We do not want to teach our kids to approve of behavior that is disrespectful, hurtful, or illegal.

Resources

An Inclusivity Toolkit has been created to help families get started. The kit includes highlights from this website, as well as some general scenarios and tips for speaking to kids about various topics centered around tolerance and acceptance. Consider printing them out and placing them somewhere handy such as a refrigerator door or or desk folder.

We are all different!

While we all share being human, we are all different in many ways. No two people share the same traits—hair color, vocal quality, fingerprints, genetic profiles, and much more. These human differences are expressed by our race, ethnicity, and gender, as well as by our personalities and our physical and mental abilities. They combine to make each of us “one of a kind”—unique individuals with distinct identities.

How to Teach Tolerance and Acceptance

Learning to treat others with tolerance and acceptance begins with you.

It is not uncommon to be embarrassed or shocked by children’s questions or statements. Kids are naive and come to each new encounter with fresh, open minds. They notice new things and things that seem different. With few prior experiences to help children filter their reactions, their expressions may be startling and seem inappropriate, but they are simply an attempt to make sense of their world.

Although many remarks come suddenly, passionately, publicly, and at extreme levels of volume, it is important to respond in a manner that is calm, caring, positive, matter-of-fact, and not judgmental. This is not always easy but entirely possible, and important to master—especially since these moments may provide some of your best opportunities to help shape attitudes and perceptions, and cement your place as a trusted advisor.