Teaching Tolerance

Last night 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 voted on Prop 8 or how you interpret scripture regarding homosexuality.

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" or are trying to exhort them - 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.




3 comments:

  1. Amen, amen, and amen.

    Telling your kids to be nice and then peppering dinner conversation with racist jokes or epithets sends the message - It's OK to be mean to people who are different than you.

    Great post.

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  2. Bullying is something we deal with often at school--even with first graders. We spend a lot of time teaching respect and using kind words. It's one reason I don't want to quit teaching--I hope to somehow make a difference in these little lives. And you're right--they have usually heard these comments or attitudes from their parents or caregivers. My heart goes out to those children and their parents.

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talk to me.

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