During bullying prevention month, let’s examine the root cause of bullying in order to better understand how to eliminate this harmful behavior: Intolerance.
Why is tolerance important?
All bullying behavior comes from a person taking issue with a perceived difference between themselves and their victim. Whether it’s their physical abilities, socioeconomic status, gender, sexuality, race or any number of traits, a bully sees those differences as a reason to inflict emotional or physical harm on their target. When kids are taught to be tolerant of these differences between people, it lessens the frequency of bullying in society at large. So, parents can make a huge impact against bullies just by raising kids that accept the differences they see in others.
Teach tolerance by example.
So how does a child learn to welcome the differences they see in their playmates? They learn by the example you set. Just like learning to walk, your growing kid learns tolerance from watching you. As you set yourself on this mission of teaching tolerance to your kids, first be mindful of the attitudes you hold towards others. Learn what you can about cultures and lifestyles that are different from yours in order to resist using harmful stereotypes to judge others. Seek out opportunities to work alongside people who are different from you in order to become more-rounded, yourself. Your family could volunteer with disabled populations, feed the homeless, or even help a neighbor with their yard work.
Tolerance is an every-day lesson.
Teaching tolerance doesn’t have to feel like a lecture or some big project. It mostly happens in small, day-to-day gestures in your own family. Start by celebrating the differences and strengths of each person in your home. This shows your kids that everyone has value, no matter what their abilities are. Make it a family rule that everyone shows respect to each other. Once you make it a foundation of your own family, your kids will respect others outside the home.
Giving kids a strong foundation at home makes a huge impact on how they interact with their peers. When they feel secure in their family life, they don’t seek out ways to hurt others. Remind them that you love them often, and praise them for their unique abilities and traits. Teach them about your own family traditions and customs, in order to bolster their sense of self and community. It’s ok to embrace your own cultural customs, as long as it’s understood that other families may celebrate in different ways.
A tolerant attitude is one of the strongest anti-bullying solutions we have. It may start at home, but it goes a long way to improving the world.