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Raising our children to respect differences

Raising our children to respect differences

Heidi JanitBy Heidi Janit


“Tolerance is giving to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself.” – Robert Green Ingersoll


I am sure it has happened to you before, in the supermarket, infront of LOTS of people……. your child blurts out “Mommy, than man is so fat”, or “Why has that lady got a funny face?”, and you wish that the floor would open up there and then and swallow you whole! Sound familiar?

Children are very honest about their observations, they are aware of the differences between themselves and others, but they do not attatch negative judgements to these differences at a young age. Unfortunately, as our children get older, these negative judgements are learnt, most of the time from you – their parents, sometimes from a teacher, sometimes from a group of friends.

The key is in how we respond to our children when they notice differences in others. There is nothing wrong when your child asks why that little boy is in a wheelchair, nor when they ask why that person’s skin is a different colour to theirs. As a parent, you need to be embracing these observations as an opportunity to teach your child the value of tolerance.

How, you may ask do we achive this?

  • Teach your children that everybody deserves to be loved: This is an example you need to set. Children will follow your example. Be helpful and kind towards others despite their differences.


  •  Educate your children about different countries and cultures: Books are an amazing medium for this. Take out books from your local library and show your children pictures of the different ways people dress, celebrate their traditions and live. Show your children different countries on a globe or in a map. Explore different foods from countries. Teach your children to appreciate these differences.


  • Teach your children the value of giving: When your child outgrows toys and clothes, think about donating these items to a charity for underpriveledged or orphaned children. Explain to your child that some children do not have clothes and toys and that is why you want to give some of their belongings to these children.


  • Create opportunities for your children to experience diversity: Expose your children to situations where they will be able to socialise with lots of children who may be different to them. This can be in the form of an extra-mural, workshops for kids,outings as well as play-dates. Games, movies and books that value differences is another good way to teach children tolerance.


  • Talk about differences with kindness and respect: Talk about the people in your family and ways in which they are all different (hair colour, eye colour, personal likes and dislikes). Explain that it is good that everyone is different and that every person is unique in their own way.


A good way for young children to understand the concept of differences is to use jelly beans! Explain that the jellybeans are all, well, jelly beans, but they have different colours and shapes. Just like people – we are all human beings, but just like the jelly beans, we are different to each other.