Definition of tolerance
“Tolerance,” says Monica, mother of a camper at Academie Duello’s Knight Camp in Vancouver, “is a basic understanding that difference is the norm and no two people are alike.” A tolerant person embraces diversity, and has learned to accept others as they are, respecting difference. In a wonderfully lucid summary, she adds that tolerant people “[lean] into difference and getting to know all of the ways that people operate in the world.”
Kids are open to accepting differences and moving forward more from there, she believes. “It really is a point from which, when you’re tolerant, you’re grounded in yourself enough to lean into difference.” Kids who have developed tolerance “[can become] the kind of people we need as leaders and participants in all parts of society.”
What’s the value of tolerance?
As Monica says, if we understand that difference is a cardinal truth of being human, “[tolerant] children [will] grow into people who are more curious and more aware that their circumstance is going to be different than anyone else’s, for a lot of reasons.” In her opinion, a tolerant attitude “is an exciting [way] for people to start their lives, exploring all of these differences.”
Tolerance includes respect, acceptance and inclusivity. No matter who you are, developing and growing tolerance means an embracement of differences among people. When you understand other perspectives, you increase opportunities to learn from others, expand your worldview and grow as an individual. This will lead to the development of stronger relationships and help create harmonious inter-connections with others. As with the development of generosity, interpersonal skills, and other character traits that seem outward-directed, developing tolerance can be a gift you give yourself. Or in the case of parenting, a gift that parents can give their children.
Monica believes tolerance has lifelong benefits. “It is really important for me that as early as possible, we expose our children to as much of the world as we can and that’s not necessarily done by taking them everywhere but even just opening the book of the world to see what’s possible.” As a result, children can learn that, “everyone is different, the world is vast and what you know is only what you know - it’s not everything to be known.”
What’s an example of tolerance?
Monica believes that camp has helped her son develop toleration and understanding. Knight Camp features a wide age range, 8-14 years old, so campers are with kids both younger and older than them. “There’s a lot of imbalances built in,” she notes, but that’s a positive. “People are going to show up knowing [different] things, having [different] skills.” They even learn that from “one year to the next [friends will have] grown or not grown at a different rate.”
When you understand other perspectives, you increase opportunities to learn from others, expand your worldview and grow as an individual.
Campers adapt to varying skill levels, exercise patience and learn how others grow at a different pace than they do. “They’re very much in a situation where they have to learn how to navigate and negotiate within all of these differences and be tolerant of people who may not know what they already know, or may not be able to do what they can do.” This learning is internalized, too, in that they become more “tolerant of themselves and learn what they need to get better.”
How to Foster and Develop Tolerant Behaviour
The Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego highlights more ways to teach children tolerance. First and foremost, kids are very receptive to the environment around them, especially things their parents say or do. “Even before they can speak, children closely watch — and imitate.” For your child to learn tolerance, it’s important that you model it yourself. Treat people with respect and kindness, avoid judging others and pay close attention to your words and actions. You can also comment on prejudices you see and hear, to show them intolerance in contrast.
Furthermore, to encourage an environment of tolerance, it is important to expose your child to different cultures, locations and people. Try new foods, visit different places, discuss cultural celebrations and learn about different religions. Acknowledge diversity and teach your child to respect differences. It’s most important to expose your child to a variety of experiences where he or she can confidently and comfortably discover the value of tolerance, for themselves. It’s important that children have a healthy self-esteem and accept themselves. “Kids who feel badly about themselves often treat others badly,” says Rady’s website.
Social environments like camp are an ideal ground for the development of tolerance. They’re exposed to people with different ethnicities, genders, religious views, skill levels, etc. It’s an atmosphere that naturally encourages diversity and inclusiveness. Campers meet kids from different backgrounds and learn to embrace differences in the structured environment that also fosters independence, interpersonal skills and other healthy attributes.
As Monica says, “camps are a great opportunity” to develop tolerance. “It’s not the same people you meet every day at school - it’s often a brand new collection of people.” The freeform camp setting allows children to explore and learn differences on their own terms. Camp is “a really fun environment” above all, as she says. Learning together with others, kids deepen an appreciation of differences. The “learn a new way to be in the world.”