How to Teach Your Child Tolerance

Does your child often get impatient and frustrated with those around him? Does he find it difficult to put up with people and issues? Here’s how you can teach him the importance of tolerance.

By S Kavitha

How to Teach Your Child Tolerance

Tolerance is a moral value that every human being should possess. With our lives becoming more and more complicated with every passing day, one of the qualities that would help us live peacefully and in harmony is tolerance. Being tolerant would help us accept, appreciate and respect the differences without any prejudice. "Being exposed to, and witnessing, tolerance is a very powerful way by which children can learn tolerance," says Dr Poornima.

If your child disrespects someone because they belong to a certain section of the society or if he wants to boss around and get things done as per his wishes, he certainly needs to be taught how to be tolerant. 

"If a child is finding it difficult to be tolerant, try and create small steps towards learning it. Whether at school, home or neighbourhood, encourage the child to be tolerant. It could be about sharing toys, food etc. Set a goal which is one step away from where the child's current abilities are, that is, set more realistic goals for the child. For example, if a child cannot tolerate anyone else touching his toys, it will be unfair to expect the child to share all his toys with others. Instead of asking him to share all his toys when other friends come over, one can gently prepare the child beforehand and ask him to keep a separate bag of toys which he could share with others when they come home to play with him. It is a graded approach in which we have to help the children master the ability to be more accepting of situations," says Dr Poornima.

Here’s what you can do to teach him tolerance:

Emphasise showing love and respect: The first thing you should make your child learn is to show love and respect towards others. These are two fundamental qualities that should be present in every human being. Also, showing empathy and compassion will make him a better individual.

Discourage mocking: Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity, irrespective of their social status. You should teach your child to not mock anyone, even for fun. Make him understand that all human beings are equal and that he should not discriminate based on stereotypes. 

Say ‘no’ to stereotyping: Children who grow up in an environment where individuals are branded and stereotyped start looking at the world with a sense of bias. Branding and stereotyping lead to feelings of prejudice, which ultimately gives rise to intolerance.

Books are an excellent source of teaching tolerance to children. Go through this ClipBook below that looks at stories that have tolerance as the main theme.

Encourage clarifying doubts: Dr Poornima adds, "It is important for adults to acknowledge the child's feelings, understand and then explore the same, before correcting the child. It is the process of dialogue rather than enforcement which is the way to teach tolerance." 

Nowadays, children have easy and unlimited access to information, especially through online resources, of which a large part is misleading and derogatory. This might create doubts in your child’s mind and she may come to you seeking answers to those questions. Be patient and clarify all her doubts, so that she’s able to differentiate the right from the wrong.

Instil family values: Family is an institution that teaches many a value, including tolerance. Get your child involved in all family functions and events so that he gets acquainted with various customs and the family members. Once he imbibes all the family values and traditions, he will naturally become a compassionate individual with high levels of tolerance.

Foster self-esteem and self-confidence: Respecting oneself is the starting point to accepting others. Your child should have high levels of self-esteem and self-confidence to become a tolerant person. Give him an important role to play within the family to foster these values.

Be the perfect role model: Never forget that your child learns a lot from you, knowingly or unknowingly. The way you treat people, respect relationships and exhibit tolerance has a huge impact on your child. Whatever be his age, your child sees you as a role model. So, if you want your child to be tolerant, you should also display high levels of tolerance at every opportunity. 

Dr Poornima says, "Children must experience tolerance from others. For example, people around them tolerating their inaccuracies, clumsiness, curiosity etc. When children experience tolerance and gentleness in response to their own behaviour, it helps them learn tolerance in turn. If a child makes a mistake or does something which is inappropriate, the kind of tolerance others show to him, by gently correcting the child as opposed to being critical or harsh, allows him to learn as to how to respond and be tolerant."

As a parent, you are the best teacher to teach good moral values to your child. "Give children the time to understand, let the child grow up at his own pace. There are no set standards. By doing so, as parents, we are also being demonstrative of tolerance. In our zeal to have children behave in positive ways it would be unfair if we set standards which are unrealistic, we should be aware of not having unrealistic expectations from the child," believes Dr Poornima.

Tolerance is one of the core values that is endorsed by modern society. If you have been teaching your child how to be tolerant, you’re doing a great job. Otherwise, now is the right time to start doing it.


With inputs from Dr M Nithya Poornima, assistant professor of clinical psychology at NIMHANS, Bengaluru.

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