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You and your child are in a public park, playing ball. There are lots of people around, and suddenly, an individual with a distinct skin color passes by. Your son shouts out to you-“Why is this auntie looking so strange?” And you freeze, not knowing what to say or do. Everyone else in the area has heard your son.
Our country is a glorious blend of cultures, races, religions and sects. It is not only a meeting point of many perspectives but it is also a cauldron of varying languages, dialects, beliefs and values. Its history has always been laced with tolerance and the ability to absorb peoples of other cultures easily and graciously. So when your child questions you openly in certain situations, it sets you thinking. Have you been teaching your child tolerance?
More and more, our children are getting to interact with people from different walks of life, in school, in public places, in cultural gatherings. The kind of people that we come across is diverse and the exposure that our children are getting today is phenomenal. Not only does this enrich our cultures and families but it is also a great way for your child to learn the value of tolerance.
As Gandhi ji said, we have to be the change that we wish to see. If you as a parent keep passing comments on people who belong to other sects or religions, inadvertently your child may pick them up from you, and you will not even have realized it. So the next time, he comes across somebody, he might just verbalize whatever you have taught him unknowingly. We need to teach our child how to prepare for the life ahead, for the future will bring with it, plenty of opportunities and if your child grows up being intolerant and cannot easily accept the opinions of others, then he will be missing out on all that life and people will have to offer him. So we need to teach our children how best it is to work in a team, and how important it is to appreciate the individual opinions of the team’s members.
Tolerance does not mean the blind following of others, but tolerance is all about respecting the other person as a whole, yet having the courage and tenacity to practice the values and belief systems imbibed by us. Acknowledging the other person as a valuable human being is what tolerance is all about. You, your child and your family can learn and celebrate together other religious festivals and traditions. Reach out to your child’s friends of different religions on their festival days.
When we as parents talk about values and beliefs, share our ideas on culture, history and religious dimensions and put into practice the art of tolerance in our day to day lives, we shall be truly passing down the legacy of cultural understanding, broad-mindedness and sensitivity to our children, some values that our country has always been renowned for.