The importance of diversity among children, and how an Ottawa daycare can help.

Tips for Teaching Tolerance to Young Children at Home and at a Daycare in Ottawa

Canada is a progressive country that not only values diversity but celebrates it from coast to coast. Many Canadians believe that diversity is what makes us stronger as a society, and other nations agree.

However, despite our society developing a more progressive mindset over the past few decades, prejudice behaviours and intolerance still exist. It may not be as prominent as it was 50 years ago, but there are still people who don’t accept the Canadian belief that diversity should be welcomed.

The future of tolerance starts with the youth of today. To instill a culture of acceptance it’s incredibly important to teach tolerance to young, impressionable children. This will develop children to become respectful, well-rounded individuals and pave the future of our society to be open to differences and celebrate diversity.

Impressionable Minds and Early Development

Children start learning behaviours at a young age through observing the behaviours of those around them. That’s why as parents and primary role models, your behaviours will make a significant impact on your children and how they learn how to behave around others.

Children who learn tolerance and respect others will be more successful throughout their lives. They will be able to understand, appreciate, and work well with others in many various experiences throughout their adult life. In turn, through these positive experiences and interactions with others, they will have better opportunities in education, employment, and relationships. Kids will excel intellectually, socially, and emotionally with tolerant attitudes and behaviours.

Children are our future. To secure a future that is full of opportunity, tolerance, and diversity we need to model and teach tolerance at a young age. This can be done both at home and during the day at a quality daycare in Ottawa that promotes inclusion amongst children.

What Is Tolerance?

In short, tolerance is an attitude. People who are tolerant are open-minded and respectful of the differences that exist among others.

Tolerance means a respect for all types of diversity, including:

  • Gender-identity;
  • Ethnicity;
  • Religion;
  • Culture;
  • Physical disabilities; and,
  • Intellectual disabilities.

Tolerance also means a willingness to:

  • Learn from others;
  • Reject unfair stereotypes;
  • Bridge cultural gaps;
  • Discover common grounds;
  • Value differences; and,
  • Create new bonds.

8 Ways to Teach Children Tolerance

1. Build Your Child’s Self-Confidence

When children feel confident about themselves, they won’t feel threatened by the differences in others.

Kids who feel badly about themselves are more likely to project those insecurities onto others and treat them poorly. Make sure your child feels respected, valued, and accepted so that they can feel self-assured and happy with who they are and therefore will be inclined to treat others with the same level of tolerance.

2. Set an Example

Kids are always listening. When they’re near you (or even in the next room), be especially mindful of how you communicate. Your children will pick up on your behaviours and attitudes towards others and even yourself – i.e., about your own appearance – and can influence your child to make judgements about others or themselves.

It’s important to acknowledge and confront your own stereotypical thoughts, speech, and actions so you can move past them and set a positive example for your kids. Find ways to demonstrate empathy and compassion for others no matter how different they are, and your children will do the same.

3. Expose Your Child to Differences

Expose your children to diversity by getting them to interact with different people around the world through friends, travel, sports, daycare, and summer camps. You can also get them to visualize and understand diversity through books, games, movies, art, and other forms of media. The more exposure they get, the more accustomed they will be to diversity and all its forms.

4. Talk About Differences Respectfully

Acknowledge the differences that exist in your own family, and how much you value these differences in styles, abilities, and interests. Teach your kids that you respect everyone both despite and because of their differences. Our differences are what make us unique; we should celebrate our cultures, beliefs, and personal preferences because we live in a country that encourages diversity.

Teaching children that uniqueness is valued both in the home and around the world will make them both respectful of others’ differences and more confident about what makes them unique.

5. Respond Thoughtfully to Questions

It’s important to nurture and encourage your child’s curiosity. Always answer them honestly, however, if you can’t think of a good answer to a difficult question on the spot, tell your child that you will get back to them, and make sure you do. This will teach them that it’s okay to notice differences and discuss them in a respectful manner.

Take the time to think before responding, and don’t ignore a tough question. You don’t want to teach your kids that it’s bad to talk about uncomfortable topics. The answer they hear could leave a life-long impression and change how they view the world around them.

6. Try to See Things from Other Perspectives

This is an important exercise for both you and your child. To avoid judgements or insensitivity towards others, instead, put yourself in their shoes and try to see things from their perspective.

For example, if your child makes an insensitive comment about a classmate, ask your child how they feel when their friends are mean to them. When they are old enough to truly understand this issue, explain the concept of prejudice to them. Just because someone is different, it doesn’t make it okay to judge them based solely on those differences. Instead, try to get to know them and see past these differences.

Empathy is a powerful attitude that is necessary for people to interact with one another respectfully.

7. Challenge Stereotypes

Do not participate in prejudice jokes or comments that degrade others. If someone says something discriminatory, address it immediately. Ask them not to use that type of language, attitudes, and behaviour, especially around you and your children.

Sit down with your kids and discuss stereotypes that you notice in the media, and what it means to be prejudice. Explain to them that people are sometimes afraid of those who are different and deal with those insecurities negatively.

Also, beware of gender stereotypes when it comes to toys, games, and activities. Don’t push a stereotypical role on your children. Instead, allow them to choose for themselves.

8. Honour Your Own Traditions & Embrace the Traditions of Others

Teach your kids about your own family heritage. Celebrate your family traditions to instill a sense of cultural identity for your kids. Also, try to learn about other cultures and their traditions through reading books and participating in fun activities with your kids.

Children are not born with prejudice beliefs. They are pure, innocent, and incredibly impressionable. Intolerance is learned as kids observe the attitudes and behaviours around them. Whether through media or other people they are exposed to on a regular basis, they will likely observe intolerant behaviour at some point.

It’s important to counter this by teaching your children tolerance and to accept that we are all different. If they know to approach diversity with positivity and celebration then they can grow up to be respectful, compassionate people who get along well with others and excel in all aspects of life.