Member of Post-Columbine Generation Reflects on School Shooting

by Carol Dreibelbis, Education & Research Fellow

Monday, February 28th brought us news of another school shooting—this time in Chardon, OH. The entire country has been rocked by this violent act that killed three students and injured two others. This is news that we hope to never hear again.

I must admit that I was not shocked when I heard about the shooting. I had just turned 10 years old when the Columbine shooting occurred, so I’ve grown up with school shootings in the news. When I was in elementary school in Minnetonka, MN, a 5th grader brought a knife to school. Bomb scares happened every so often during middle school and high school, and gun scares were not unheard of on my college campus in Princeton, NJ. While some of us might deny that a school shooting could ever happen in our community, it seems all too possible to me.

Having graduated college back in June, I’m a relatively new employee here at CEP. Joining CEP has pushed me to think about issues such as school violence in new ways. I have realized that violence is something that schools can both prepare for—just as Chardon High School did by creating a response plan to deal with violence when it occurs—and prevent. Can we work toward a new future where shootings and other acts of violence are rarities in school settings? I think so.

We have all heard that instances of school shootings, teen suicides, and other violent acts have been connected to bullying and lack of acceptance at school. Given this, the shooting on Monday highlights the importance of creating safe and caring school communities. Comprehensive character education efforts can build an atmosphere where students feel included, connected, and part of their school community; where both students and teachers step up to report bullying and stand up for victims; where teachers check in with vulnerable or troubled students instead of hoping, “she’s fine” or “he’s too much trouble”; and where parents are involved and engaged. This may seem like just a dream to many, but it is achievable—just ask many of our National Schools of Character!

There are, of course, countless reasons why acts of violence take place in schools. Still, recent events in Chardon remind us that schools—together with parents and their communities—can work to minimize these occurrences. Let’s work together to make each student feel safe, valued, and strong enough to do the right thing.

Question: How does your school work to create a safe and caring school community? Please let us know by posting a comment below!

15 Serious Facts about High School Stress

Contributed by Michele Borba

Every parent and educator must know these troubling facts about our teens. Each fact is a wake-up call, but together they should mean: “Time for Code Red”

This blog was written by the Bachelor’s Degree Online and published with its permission.

One of the greatest lies ever perpetuated about the teen years is that they’re supposedly “the best years of your life.” Ask any high schooler these days how he or she genuinely feels about this statement and the opposite sentiment might very well end up relayed instead.

Every year, more and more pressures regarding classes, getting into the right college (or deciding if college is even the right choice), families, jobs, extracurricular activities, friends, relationships, and other stimuli just keep burbling away beneath their still-developing forms.

Suffice it to say, this avalanche of stress hinders their progress and personalities far more than it helps, but many think they have no real alternative. Without persistently striving toward an unattainable perfection, students find themselves trapped between success or failure, with no “gray areas” in between.

And the situation worsens every year, although there are plenty of things administrators, teachers, parents, and even the teens themselves can to do promote calmness and balance. Before that, though, they should understand exactly what’s at stake when it comes to stress and anxiety in the high school classroom.

1. Most high school students consider cheating OK: According to a CNN poll of 4,500 high schoolers, around 75% engage in “serious cheating,” over half plagiarize directly from the Internet, and about 50% believe that copying answers doesn’t even count as cheating. Such questionable ethics apparently stem directly from absurd competition, since grades mean the difference between getting into a dream school and a backup. To alleviate the mounting stress to constantly perform at the highest level, students turn toward cheating and compromising their own education as a solution.

2. One in five teens qualifies as clinically depressed: According to Mental Health America’s estimates, 20% of teens are clinically depressed, and the real tragedy lies with how their parents and teachers approach the subject. Because so many dismiss the symptoms of depression as mere adolescent adjustments, a disconcerting number of these teens go without the treatment they need to enjoy a healthy, happy life.

Obviously, depression stems from numerous factors beyond just heightened academic pressures. But they certainly render already painful situations even worse, regardless of whether or not they exist as the root cause.

3. Stress ups the suicide rate…: Over in the UK, Oakgrove head teacher John Harkin told The Guardian that anywhere between 600 to 800 students between the ages of 15 and 24 commit suicide annually. A poll of 804 teachers revealed that 73% considered school (and life in general) far more stressful for students than in the previous decade, which more than likely contributes to the climbing suicide rate. Eighty-nine percent believed high-stakes classroom assignments and exams played a major (if not the premiere) role in nurturing anxiety.

4. …oh, and self-harm, too: Beyond suicide, though, British students also cause self-harm in greater numbers than before, correlating with the increase in school and other life pressures. As reported by The Guardian, 46% of polled teachers claimed they knew of kids in middle and high school harming themselves. Cutting seems to be the most popular trend beneath this tragic umbrella, although anorexia — which, by the way, has little to do with simply wanting to “be skinny” — and other eating disorders appear on the rise as well.

5. The same thing happens in the U.S., too: The problem of depression, anxiety and suicide transcends nationality, and The Almanac printed statistics from the National Institutes of Health and its study on random San Francisco students. Although obviously not indicative of the whole nation’s risk, it did highlight the relationship between stress and mental health taxing the youth. A staggering 30% of the city’s high schoolers suffered beneath a suicide risk, and one institution in particular (Menlo-Atherton High School) saw 40 teens forced to go under behavior monitoring within a year.

6. Some schools have purged the AP Program altogether…: Despite the prestige heaped onto offering Advanced Placement classes and harboring students who get stellar scores on the affiliated exams, some schools have decided to forgo them completely. These college-level courses taught in high school require a heftier workload than their level and honors counterparts, and institutions like Beaver Country Day School in Massachusetts don’t think the inflated stress is worth the emotional and physiological toll. So they’ve obliterated the program, which they claim has no impact whatsoever on graduates’ eventual college acceptance and success.

7. …and managed to implement some successful alternatives, too: Along with jettisoning the AP Program, some schools — like the aforementioned Beaver Country Day School — have decided to implement other measures to keep students from succumbing to stress. More low-key assignments, like shooting videos or writing songs, prove just as effective as more rote, lecture-based methods used in traditional classrooms. Other strategies include weekends with no homework assigned, improved communication between teachers so major exams don’t correspond with those in other classes, and longer study and recreation periods. Once again, the school reports that these strategies improve the quality of life for their students without compromising their academic performance or potential.

8. And the teachers on the front lines could be doing better as well: Regardless of whether or not they work in a school experimenting with more stress-reduction methods, teachers themselves could generally do better when nurturing mentally and emotionally healthy students, especially those teachers with Advanced Placement kiddos under their care. Menlo-Atherton High School math teacher Jerry Brodkey practices empathy in his classroom, tailoring his workloads to maximize education while minimizing anxiety. Such a simple concept and awareness of his students’ lives beyond his calculus and algebra classes resulted in improved scores once AP Exam time rolled around. Not to mention some seriously positive teacher evaluations mentioning how the relaxed atmosphere better facilitated learning and information retention.

9. It starts much earlier than high school: Increased college competition means increased high school competition. Increased high school competition means increased middle school competition. Increased middle school competition means increased elementary school competition. Once students get to the last four compulsory grades, the pressure to constantly excel and perform has already been shoved into their growing bodies. So when kids do succumb to the pressures, chances are they may very well have been lurking beneath the surface long before freshman year.

10. Female students feel it harder than their male peers: A survey conducted by the Associated Press and MTV discovered that of the 85% of students claiming they experienced “stress at least sometimes” (if not more than that), most were female. Forty-five percent reported they felt it “frequently,” compared to 32% of their male colleagues. Most disconcertingly, the trend seemed to reflect an increase in stress and anxiety levels when compared to surveys from the year before — at least 10 points higher, says MSNBC. Interestingly enough, students hailing from mid-range income families experienced far more pressure than those from low- or high-income ones.

11. Girls are more likely to suppress their stress: Not only are female students more likely to experience hefty amounts of stress, they also typically handle it more discreetly than males. However, the boys don’t always handle it healthily, either — according to Dr. Roni Cohen-Sandler, they typically react to the anxieties by dropping out mentally. Social pressures push girls towards constant perfection in school, extra-curriculars, appearances, relationships and friendships without ever growing ragged or showing signs of exhaustion (what sociologist Michael Kimmel refers to as “effortlessly perfect”). In fact, 55% told the psychologist they place almost unnecessary amounts of stress on themselves to maintain society’s near-impossible expectations of flawlessness.

12. School ranks as the highest stressor in high school students’ lives: For both females and males between the ages of 13 and 17, school stood as their primary conduit of super stress. Once they hit the 18-to-25-year-old demographic, work supplants academics. But high schoolers face down more anxieties than that, including (but not limited to) bullying, broken homes, substance abuse (or the temptation towards substance abuse), relationships and sex, jobs, extracurricular activities, appearances and more. Girls and young women in particular find themselves petrified for safety reasons at a higher rate than their male counterparts, as they’re more likely to be the victims of rape and sexual assault.

13. GPAs are increasing: In California, at least, where state schools saw a significant rise in the GPAs of incoming freshman between 2003 and 2009. Petaluma360.com’s Colleen Rustad noted that UC Davis transitioned from a 3.86 to a 4.0 average, and Berkeley witnessed an increase from 3.58 to 3.61. So while some modicum of positivity can be squeezed out of the overworked teenagers’ plight, the serious mental and physical health tolls often render them a rather Pyrrhic victory instead.

14. Parents can exacerbate the situation…: Even the most well-meaning, loving moms and dads (or grandparents or aunts or uncles or legal guardians) run the risk of contributing to Little Junior or Muffy’s ever-mounting anxiety. Although parents and guardians should encourage and support their kids’ academic and (within reason) personal goals, they should stay alert for signs of burnout as well. Success (ethically earned, of course) is always great, but should never take precedence over the health, safety and overall well-being of a student, either. The likelihood of entering an Ivy League university even with a perfect record sits between 7% and 18%, and there’s no shame in pointing kids toward more affordable — and still thoroughly viable — options requiring less strenuous high schooling.

15. …but they’re also key in making it better: Dr. Cohen-Sandler’s research revealed that less than 50% of the most stressed-out female students believed their parents and guardians didn’t notice the mental and physical cracks forming. Along with “less stress” and “more sleep,” the primary thing this demographic desires is more communication and support from parents and guardians. They believe bouncing their feelings off a more experienced individual who knows them well will prove game-changing in better managing their time, emotions, friendships, and other messy hallmarks of being a teen. In addition, tighter-knit, more genuine social circles and the eradication of “mean girls” will considerably help ease the transition into adulthood.

38 Parenting Practices That Build Moral Intelligence

Contributed by Michele Borba

REALITY CHECK: The family is the first school of virtue.

Kids don't learn kindness from a textbook.Even in our increasingly toxic culture, parents can still have the inside track in their children’s development because parents are their children’s first and most important moral teachers. That premise only applies, though, if parents choose to use their moral influence.

Remember, children do not acquire strong character in one-time lectures, but in daily teachable moments. So take advantage of everyday moments to stretch your child’s character and there are dozens!
 

“You have a new friend in your classroom. How do you think he feels not knowing
anyone? What could you do to help him feel less lonely?”

“Listen to the lyrics on that CD. Do you want others to think girls should be talked
about and treated that way?”

“Was that helpful or hurtful? In our home we only do things that will build people
up – not tear them down. What will you do to make amends to your friend?”

Here are a few practices from my book, Building Moral Intelligence, that make a difference in raising moral kids.  Find ways to use these moral-building principles in everyday moments with your children.

38 Parenting Practices That Nurture Moral Intelligence

  • To teach kids empathy, you must show kids empathy.
  • Show the impact empathy has on others so your child understands it’s important.
  • If you want your child to feel for others, demand your child to feel for others.
  • Provide opportunities for your child to experience different perspectives and views.
  • Experiencing different perspectives helps children be able to empathize with others’ needs and views.
  • Be sure your behaviors your kids watch are ones that you want them to copy.
  • If you want your child to act morally, then expect moral behaviors from her.
  • Talk about moral issues as they come up, so your child can hear your moral beliefs.
  • Plainly explain your concerns to your child, set standards, and then stick to them.
  • Catch your child acting morally by describing what she did right and why you
    appreciate it.
  • To teach kids self-control, you must show kids self-control, so be a living
    example of self-control.
  • Refrain from always giving tangible rewards for your child’s efforts so she develops her own internal reward system.
  • Your home is the best place for your child to learn how deal with stressful
    situations. Don’t rob him of the opportunity to learn how.
  • Gradually stretch your child’s ability to control his impulses and learn to wait.
  • Treat children respectfully so that they feel respected and are therefore more likely to treat others respectfully.
  • Tune up your child’s social graces and make courtesy a priority in your home.
  • Do not tolerate any form of back-talk or rudeness. Stop it before it spreads.
  • Supervise your child’s media consumption closely. Set clear family standards, and then stick to them!
  • Explain your moral standards to the other adults in your child’s life so you can work together.
  • Make sure you are a positive, affirming role model and surround your child with
    people of high character.
  • Take an active stand against cruelty and just plain do not allow it.
  • Take time to tell and show kids how to be kind – never assume they have that
    knowledge.
  • Kids don’t learn how to be kind from a textbook, but from doing kind deeds.
  • Encourage your child to lend a hand so he or she will understand the power of “doing good.”
  • The best way to teach kids any virtue is not through our lectures but through our
    example.
  • Become the living textbook of morality that you want your child to copy.
  • Teach your child from the time he is very young that no one is better than any other person.
  • Refuse to allow discriminatory remarks of any kind in your presence.
  • Get in touch with your own prejudices and be willing to change them so your child
    won’t learn them from you.
  • Nurture in your child a sense of pride in her culture, heritage, and identity.
  • Expose your child early to games, literature, and toys that represent a wide range of multicultural groups to boost her or his appreciation and acceptance for
    differences.
  • Encourage your child to participate in activities which promote diversity and nurture tolerance.
  • If you want your child to be fair, expect your child to be fair.
  • The easiest way to increase fairness is by reinforcing fair behaviors.
  • Encourage your child when he encounters unfair treatment to stand up for himself and the rights of others.
  • Look for opportunities in your neighborhood or community and get involved together in making the world a better place.
  • Emphasize acting fairly and good sportsmanship both on and off the field.
  • There is no more powerful way to boost kids’ moral intelligence than to get them
    personally involved in an issue of injustice and then encourage them to take a
    stand; they will learn that they can make a difference in the world.

There is no rewind button on parenting, so be intentional when it comes to building
your child’s character. Parents who raise good kids don’t do so by accident!

Resistance to Character Education

by Sarah Twardock, Fundraising and Research Fellow at CEP

The mere mention of the words “character education” inevitably sparks resistance among certain populations.

If my students don’t get certain test scores, my job is in jeopardy, asserts the overworked teacher. I don’t have time to teach math AND character.

“What do you mean, you’re going to teach my child character?” questions a suspicious parent. “I don’t want the school to teach him something against my values.”

 People are going to be mean no matter what you try to teach them, argues the jaded teenager. All of these “character” programs are a big joke.

These statements are valid—if you are referring to a very limited, narrow approach to character education. We all know the type. It’s characterized by inspirational posters on the wall, times set aside throughout the school year to didactically teach students about a particular character trait, and outdated videos that oversimplify the nuances and challenges facing young people developing a personal code of ethics. Yes, the core values highlighted on the posters and in the designated “character times” are concepts we can all agree upon—surely, that suspicious parent would not object to her son learning about respect, responsibility, integrity, and perseverance. Yet this rather half-hearted attempt to promote the values essential to a student’s (and society’s) optimal development while appeasing the naysayers is not particularly effective, and it has created a widespread misconception of character education as the “soft” part of education that is difficult to dispel.

Difficult, yes, but impossible, no. The case for character education is certainly there. Numerous studies (Angela Duckworth’s grit scale and Joseph Durlak’s meta-analysis of SEL programs come to mind) have shown that particular character traits—such as being able to persevere in the face of failure, make responsible decisions and goals, recognize and manage emotions, establish positive relationships, and constructively handle interpersonal situations, among others—predict success above and beyond IQ. Given that schools were created to equip young people with the skills necessary to succeed in and eventually lead our society, it seems irrefutable that they should not only help their students to attain certain test scores, but also intentionally work to develop these personal qualities in students that enable them to succeed beyond the classroom as well.

The framework for developing a comprehensive, successful character education program is also in place. A growing number of schools across the country have used the Eleven Principles of Effective Character Education to bring staff, parents, and, most importantly, students, together to create a more caring and productive learning environment. Those schools that have received the highest marks according to the 11 Principles assessment tool saw numerous concrete indicators of whole school improvement. For example, students were treating others with more respect. Violence and bullying decreased. Substance abuse declined. Teacher morale and retention improved. Parental involvement increased. And, of course, that lynchpin of all good schools, academic achievement, also significantly improved.

The question remains, then, how to take these success stories to the masses and publicize what effective character education really looks like. If teachers knew that effective character education is the cultivation of a nurturing classroom culture rather than an additional item to fit into the busy school day, they wouldn’t feel as though their agenda were too jam-packed for character. If parents knew that their children would be encouraged to reach their fullest potential in a more respectful environment, they wouldn’t view character education as an attempt to undermine their role as primary moral educators. And if students were involved in creating their own character development initiatives, they wouldn’t dismiss them as an outdated waste of time.

Please help CEP spread the word on what effective character education is and what it is not. We’d love to hear your ideas on how we can further the movement!

Nurturing Tolerance to Reduce Bullying

Students at Livingston Park Elementary School, New Brunswick, NJ

Contributed by Michele Borba

How teaching children tolerance can curb bullying and peer cruelty

REALITY CHECK: Did you know that today’s American youth is displaying intolerant actions at alarming rates – and at younger and younger ages? The FBI tells us most hate crimes are committed by youths younger than nineteen.

Tolerance is a powerful virtue that helps curtail hatred, bullying, violence, and bigotry while at the same time influencing us to treat others with kindness, respect, and understanding.

While tolerance doesn’t call upon us to suspend moral judgment, it does require us to respect differences. This virtue is what helps our children recognize that all persons deserve to be treated with dignity, justice and respect even if we happen to disagree with some of their beliefs or behaviors. And it is a critical component of moral intelligence that we must build in our children.

Intolerance can be demonstrated in many ways – verbally, physically, or in combination – but in every case, the perpetrator displays cold-hearted disrespect for his victims targeting their race, ethnicity, age, religion, disability, beliefs, gender, appearance, behavior or sexual orientation. Whatever method the perpetrator uses, an act of intolerance always causes the victim pain.

Why Intolerance Breeds Bullies

Research shows that a key reason for the escalation of bullying is due to intolerance. My work with hundreds of student focus groups across the country verifies that research. After students confirm to me that bullying is indeed a “big” problem, I ask: “Who do bullies choose for their victims? Is there a specific trait they look for?” The number one word I hear: “Different.”

“What is so different about the victim?”

The “different” terms kids list for children more likely to be bullied are endless: Too fat. Too thin. A speech problem. Band kids. Too shy or quiet. A different race. In the special ed class. Gifted or too smart. Cries easily. A loner. Gay. Too pretty. Too poor. Dresses funny. Too artsy. Just moved. Teacher’s pet. In short, any kid who doesn’t fit in or blend in…any child who looks or acts a little bit out of the norm. Bullies too often target a victim based on race, ethnicity, age, religion, disability, beliefs, gender, appearance, behavior or sexual orientation.

 Tolerance: The Missing Piece to Stop Bullying

I was in the Portland, OR airport last year and witnessed one of the most powerful yet simple lessons of tolerance I’ve ever seen. About two dozen preschool children and their teachers were on an airport field trip. All were walking hand-in-hand and wearing t-shirts that read “Children Are Not Born Racist.” It was quite an image. Other passengers were struck as I was, and many stopped to stare.

One man standing near me said to no one in particular, “If only parents could understand that one message—maybe we could get along.” How right he was! The lesson conveyed on those shirts is what all research confirms: we are not born with intolerant beliefs–we learn them as children from the environments in which we live. So if we really are concerned about ending bullying (or cruelty, racism, bigotry, intolerance, and hate) we must consciously model and nurture tolerance in our homes and schools and do so when our kids are very young. It’s the best chance we have to help children grow to appreciate and respect others who are different from themselves.

Strategies to Boost Tolerance and Curb Bullying

Confront your own prejudices
The first step to nurturing tolerance is to examine your own prejudices and reflect on how you might be projecting those ideas to your child. Chances are that you are communicating those attitudes to your child. You might begin by reflecting on your own childhood upbringing: What were some of your parents’ prejudices? Do any of those remain with you today? Take time to reflect on how you might be projecting those old, outdated ideas to your child. Then make a conscious attempt to temper them so that they don’t become your child’s prejudices. Sometimes you might not even know you are tainting your children’s views.

Commit to raising a tolerant child
Parents who think through how they want their kids to turn out usually succeed simply because they planned their parenting efforts. So if you really want your child to respect diversity, you must adopt a conviction early on to raise him to do so. Once your child knows your expectations, he will be more likely to embrace your principles.

In 1954 Harvard social psychologist Gordon Allport began to explore the roots of intolerance and published his results in his renowned classic, The Nature of Prejudice.

Allport’s central idea is that children are born with the capacity for tolerance or intolerance. Which of the two they lean towards depends largely on how they are parented.

Children who grow to become tolerant are generally raised in families where there are three conditions: strong parental love and warmth, consistent discipline and clear models of moral behavior. It’s when those needs are not met that prejudice develops. Allport explained: “Children brought up in a rejecting home, exposed to ready-made prejudices, will scarcely be in a position to develop a trustful or affiliative outlook upon social relationships. Having received little affection, they are not in a position to give it.” Allport’s findings are critical to keep in mind if we are really committed to raising more tolerant children.

Help your child develop identify and pride in his culture
The starting place to help children understand diversity is for them to look at their own ancestry. The family is where children not only receive a sense of belonging but also acquire their primary language, their knowledge of their ethnicity, their spiritual or religious beliefs, and their values. It is through this membership that kids define their identity and develop pride in their cultural heritage.

Learning about their family background helps children connect with their past and develop an appreciation and respect for not only their own national and ethnic background but also for those of their friends and classmates.

As Barbara Mathias and Mary Ann French, authors of 40 Ways to Raise a Nonracist Child, explain: “Once your child has a solid sense of self and pride in her own people, it will be easier for her to find joy in the differences of others.”

So help your child understand his heritage and as well as begin to appreciate just how much the world is a melting pot of different customs and ideas.

Refuse to allow discriminatory comments
When you hear prejudicial comments, verbalize your displeasure. How you respond sends a clear message to your child about your values: “That’s disrespectful and I won’t allow such things to be said in my house,” or “That’s a biased comment, and I don’t want to hear it.” Your child needs to hear your discomfort so that she knows you really walk your talk. It also models a response she should imitate if prejudicial comments are made in her presence.

Embrace diversity
From a young age, expose your child to positive images – including toys, music, literature, videos, public role models, and examples from TV or newspaper reports – that represent a variety of ethnic groups. Encourage your child, no matter how young, to have contact with individuals of different races, religions, cultures, genders, abilities, and beliefs. The more your child sees how you embrace diversity, the more prone he’ll be to follow your standards.

Use multicultural literature: Jan Arnow, author of Teaching Peace, points out that “only 10 percent of the almost 5,000 children’s books published each year in the United States are multicultural in nature. Of those, fewer than 50 titles annually have been written about Native American and Asian peoples.”

That is a troubling statistic, because research says that children first become aware of race and gender differences around two years of age, around the time many parents have started nightly bedtime traditions of reading with their kids. Expose your child early to a variety of multicultural literature that features positive images of all cultures and genders. It is one way to increase tolerance as well as reduce or prevent prejudice.

Emphasize similarities
Encourage your child to look for what he has in common with others instead of how he is different.

Help your child see how similarities outweigh differences. Encourage your child to look for what he has in common with others instead of how he is different.

One fun way to foster tolerance in your child is to play as a family a simple game called “Alike and Different.” It begins by having family members form pairs. Tell each pair to think of five ways they are alike and five ways they are different. Answers can be written or drawn. “Alike” answers might be, for example, “We are African-American, Baptist, dark-haired, brown-eyed, sisters, and Williams family members.” “Different” answers could be, for example, “I like soccer, she likes tennis; I play saxophone, she plays violin; I am a fourth-grader, she is a second-grader; I am 4’5″, she is 4’2″.” In a larger family, have each twosome report their findings back to the family. From then on, any time your child points out how she is different from someone, you might say. “Yes, there are lots of ways you are different from other people. Now let’s try to think of ways you are the same.”

Give straightforward, simple answers to questions about differences
Kids are naturally curious, so you should expect questions about differences. Asking questions is one way for them to sort out how they are different or the same from others as well as to learn to feel comfortable with those differences.

Beverly Daniel Tatum, author of Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? stresses the importance of answering children’s questions simply and honestly even though some issues may seem embarrassing or even taboo. How you respond can either create stereotypes or prevent from forming.

For very young kids, usually a one-or two-sentence answer is enough.

Child:   Sally is a girl. She shouldn’t be playing football!
Parent: Girls can play the same sports boys do. Some girls like football, and some girls don’t. Sally likes to play football, so she should play it.

Child: Why is that boy sitting in that chair that moves?
Parent: That chair is called a wheelchair, and it has a motor. The boy’s legs don’t work the same as yours. The chair is what he uses to get from place to place.

Counter discriminatory beliefs
When you hear a child make a prejudicial comment, listen to find out why he feels the way he does. Then gently challenge his views and point out why they are incorrect. For example if your child says, “Homeless people should get jobs and sleep in their own houses.” You might counter: “There are many reasons homeless people don’t work or have houses. They may be ill or can’t find jobs. Houses cost money, and not everyone can pay for one.”

Live your life as an example of tolerance
The best way for your child to learn tolerance is for him to watch and listen to your daily example. So ask yourself each day one critical question: “If my child had only my behavior to copy, would he be witnessing an example of what I want him to emulate?” Make sure you are walking your talk.

The best secret to teaching kids tolerance is not through our lectures but through our example. So be a living textbook of tolerance for your child and for all other children. It’s also the best way we have to create a peaceful world for our children.

Sensitivity, Empathy and Tolerance Must Be Nurtured

Hatred, bigotry, prejudice, and intolerance can be learned, but so too can sensitivity, understanding, empathy, and tolerance. Although it’s certainly never too late to begin, the sooner we start, the better the chance we have of preventing insidious, intolerant attitudes from taking hold.

Remember: kids aren’t born hateful; prejudices are learned.

If today’s children are to have any chance of living harmoniously in this multiethnic world, it is critical that parents and teachers nurture it. We must be the change for our children.