One of the most ‘enlightening’ messages to come out of this year’s highly controversial and oftentimes extremely heated presidential election is the need to talk to our kids about tolerance. The left is bashing the right and the right is throwing slams at the left, and most of it is unfounded and totally not true. Much of it is a spinoff of a smaller ‘fact’ that has been picked up by the media and so distorted by the time it hits the air that few people can actually say they know what is going on and why.
If you just let your kids watch all the bizarre arguments going back and forth and the rampant hatred on both sides, you are doing them a grave disservice. As a parent, it’s important to use times like these as a lesson in tolerance. We may not always agree with others but we can learn to be tolerant of our differences and even begin to find some area of common ground where we can be friends.
Being Tolerant Encompasses So Much Territory
When you think about how hard it is to teach kids about the importance of tolerance in a world where everything is happening around you at the speed of light, it can be a truly daunting task. Not only are we intolerant of those with a differing political view but there are those who believe differently than we do, those who have differing gender orientations and those who seemingly lack any values whatsoever. There is much to be tolerant of, just as there is much within us that others need to be tolerant of as well. It is, after all, a two way street.
Cultural and Religious Differences Are Especially Hard to Explain
How do you teach your kids in Richmond Hill, NY or Millbourne, PA where the total population of those practicing Sikhism accounts for more than one-third the population that they are people, just like us, but with a different cultural and religious orientation? How do you teach your kids that they have the right to be who they are just as you have the right to be who you are, with your own set of political, cultural and religious orientations? The very least you can do is help your children understand that this is a very small planet we live on, and of the importance of coexisting peacefully if we are to exist at all.
Our Differences Are a Gift, Not a Curse
It is important to explain to your children that these ‘differences’ are what make life interesting. They are a gift and not a curse. How boring would it be if everyone were merely a carbon copy of everyone else and even more importantly, each culture, each faith, each political bent has something to teach the ‘other side.’ We can do more than be tolerant of those who are different. We can make an effort to understand so that we can learn and grow from things we didn’t know before and may never have known if we didn’t open to other possibilities in life.
Even so, there are some things which we need to hold firm to. There are some values we, as parents, need to be passing on to our children and tolerance doesn’t mean abandoning our core values. The point here is that we don’t need to ‘be like’ the others we encounter, but we should make every effort to be tolerant of them. In so doing, many of the tensions we live through every day will perhaps dull, if not vanish altogether. By being tolerant of others, we are showing them how to be tolerant of us and that is the foundation of any great and lasting relationship.