In order to foster tolerance in a multicultural society, children need to develop multicultural competence. Multicultural competence is the ability to understand, effectively interact, and communicate with people from diverse cultures. Children need to acknowledge that how they perceive the world can be different from how others’ perceive the world. Parents can do this by:
- Valuing diversity in their lives. They consciously educate themselves about diverse cultures. They are aware that parents can’t teach what they don’t know. They want to answer their children’s questions about diversity with honesty and accuracy.
- Modeling an attitude of respect for diverse cultures. They know that their children are always listening to them. They treat diverse individuals with respect. They do not stereotype or make negative comments about diverse cultures.
- Being aware of the diversity that is in their community. Parents help their children understand and appreciate the diversity that is around them.
- Being aware of the diversity that is not around them. Parents constantly seek to expose children to the diversity that is beyond their immediate world (e.g., race, ethnicity, culture, class, gender, or sexuality).
- Seeking out knowledge or resources to help them educate their children about diverse cultures. They pick out books, music, art and videos that allow for their children to make meaningful connections.
- Embracing difference by celebrating differences. Parents can create unique experiences for their children by participating in diverse cultural celebrations. They can also have a special day at home by reading books, making an ethnic meal, and/or doing arts and craft projects. These experiences leave a lasting impression in the minds of their children and can become part of new family traditions.
By fostering tolerance in this way, children are not just living in a diverse world, but in a multicultural world that allows for them to gain tolerance and respect for others.
By Amita Roy Shah, Ed.D.