Teaching Tolerance

Last week the news covered the story of an 11-year-old who committed suicide due to relentless bullying about his sexual orientation. Again - he was ELEVEN YEARS OLD. The news program I watched featured a myriad of resources for parents of children who might be bullied. But for me, I think this is a wake-up call to ALL parents, to make sure that our children are not the ones committing acts of bullying and hate to other children. From what I gathered watching the news, a majority of the children in his class were engaed in this kind of taunting towards him.

The harassment of children who may or may not be gay is not a political or religious issue, and really has nothing to do with our own ideologies or moral convictions. This is one of those situations where we need to set aside our polarized feelings. Teaching and modeling tolerance has nothing to do with how you feel about gay marriage or your religious beliefs about sexual behavior.

Gay slurs (and racial slurs) should have no place in our children's vocabulary, and yet this is a plague that spreads across our country. Children often learn these attitudes from adults in their life, whether overt or covert. We as parents are culpable if our children are spreading hate. While it's easy to say that kids learn to tease others from each other, this child's death is an example that we should be more proactive in teaching our children that we will not tolerate intolerance. We can't ignore the issues of bullying and let them learn it from their peers. Eleven year olds don't pick on people because they feel they are "sinning" - eleven year olds pick on people because they are "different" and have not been taught that this behavior is unacceptable. If we follow a Christian ethic, we are taught to love others, and to show God's love through our actions. Today I am reminded that this needs to be an ongoing conversation with my children, and more importantly, something I model for them through every word that comes out of my mouth.

2 comments:

  1. I heartily agree with the sentiments of this post- we need to be teaching our children that God loves everyone, that Jesus died for everyone, and that we are to model Christ's love and compassion to everyone, no matter what their sexual "preference." However, that being said, I think we need to be careful of using the word "tolerance." Tolerance is a word that the World has come up with, which implies that there is no moral right and wrong, no moral code that we are to abide by and encourages the mentality that "anything goes." It is often used to suggest that we are to tolerate all behavior and all moral choices and to make us feel like "who am I to tell you that what you are doing is unacceptable?" While Christ was the perfect example of love and grace, he did not "tolerate" sin in any form, and we need to be careful that that is not what we are teaching our children. We certainly need to be willing to stand up for what is right and pure in a world that is making that concept vague and "old fashioned!" Let's just remember to balance unconditional love, with a careful eye that distinguishes between right and wrong and teaches our children to do likewise.

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  2. Kristen,

    I totally agree. Regardless of what we teach our children is morally acceptable; we need to establish the expectation of our children to treat EVERYONE with respect and compassion, no matter how they differ from us.

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