Pamela Layton McMurtry is a mom, artist and author who joins us a guest blogger for our back to school for everyone series of posts and giveaways with an informative and thoughtful post on teaching tolerance and respect to our children for others before school begins.
You’ve filled the basket with pencils, colorful notebooks and the latest shoes. Do your children have the most important things they need to go back to school; tolerance, love and respect for others?
Bullying and hate crimes cause pain and interrupt the peaceful environment we wish for. What can we, parents and teachers, do to make a positive change in the world? How can we teach our children love and tolerance and encourage respect? Through our actions. For guidance and inspiration we may turn to the scriptures, look at the examples of Jesus Christ or prophets, read Plato, Buddha, C.S. Lewis or wise philosophers.Teaching children attitudes of tolerance and respect for others are among the most important lessons a parent or teacher ever gives. Sadly, parents and teachers are sometimes the offenders. You might consider performing a self-assessment to see where you are on the love-hate spectrum. Equally important life skills are honesty and respect for others’ property.
Children who are physically or emotionally different are very often the targets of bullying. There is a story of a young man who was having difficulty fitting in at school. His pain was so great that one day he cleaned out his locker, vowing to never return. As he crossed the campus, he tripped and the large stack of books went flying. The popular kids were standing nearby. Some started to jeer at him. But one, the captain of the football team, went over and asked him if he was all right. He helped the boy to his feet and picked up the scattered books. He didn’ know that he had just saved a life. The boy was planning to go home and kill himself. He didn’ want his mother to have to clean out his locker. The kindness of one person gave him the will to live.
There are a few simple and powerful ideas that can help you create a respectful environment and teach tolerance and love.
Respect is treating people as equals. It is not the same as being nice in a passive-aggressive way, especially to avoid conflict. In God’s eyes all people are equal. We are warned not to judge, disdain or dismiss. Aren’t the best governments founded on the idea of universal equality? Listening respectfully means no side conversations, rolling eyes or sighing. No rude comments and especially no loaded passive-aggressive or dishonest questions that are, in reality, trying to hurt others.
Be Inclusive. We are naturally attracted to people who look and act like us. We often gather with people who remind us of our family members in appearance or behavior. If you visit a school playground, you may see little groups of blonde girls playing together, or boys playing a sport. This is no reason to exclude others who may dress differently or have other interests. Encourage your children to look for new children and invite them to sit with them and their friends at lunch, which can be one of the loneliest times for a new child.
Appreciate Diversity. Everyone is of value and has a purpose. Teach your children to look for something to compliment — a pretty smile, kindness, scholastic or athletic abilities.
Don’t Judge. We usually have no idea what is going on in a person’s life. If a person’s clothes aren’t as nice or her hairstyle is outdated, we don’t need to punish her. For a child who is fairly powerless to obtain material things or even emotional support, social cruelty is especially bitter. Instead ask yourself, “Is there is something I can do to help?”
Maintain Confidentiality. Be responsible for the information you know, or think you know. Too many lives and reputations are disrupted by lies, half-truths and innuendo. But, if you find out that someone is a dangerous situation, tell an adult.
Solve Problems Quickly. If you feel offended or disrespected, contact the person immediately and privately. It’s more effective than holding a grudge or seeking revenge. Tell that person how you feel, using “ I” statements and ask him to stop the offending behavior. If he or she refuses, get a trusted adult to help.
Remember the Golden Rule: Treat others as you wish to be treated. And a more valuable Platinum Rule: Treat others as they wish to be treated.
Service is good for everyone. Did you know that when you help someone, your brain releases neurotransmitters that give you a happy, satisfied feeling?
Limit Violent Music and Media. Studies have shown that exposure to music with violent lyrics and movies and games with violent themes elevate aggressive behavior.
It’s time for a change! Let’s teach our children well and do our best to bring warmth and love to a weary world. One kind word or deed may make all the difference to someone who is suffering and may literally save a life. Let’s end bullying and encourage inclusiveness, tolerance and respect.
About the Author
Pamela Layton McMurtry is a mom, artist and author. She blogs about holidays, children and family love at www.pammcmurtry.com and is a contributor to FamilyShare.com, Scholastic and other great sites. Her A Harvest and Halloween Handbook is an alternative look at autumn holidays for the macabre-impaired and is available at Barnes & Noble. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.