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Teaching Tolerance

We all want our children to be tolerant of other people's differences. We don't want them to stare at someone in a wheelchair, or shun a child of another race, or make fun of a foreign accent. We don't want them to have racial, religious, or gender prejudice. We want them to wait without complaining when an elderly person holds up the checkout line because he's having difficulty counting out his money.

That's a tall order: The complex mosaic of tolerance changes as our children grow older. Understanding how your kids perceive differences between people and how they feel about them at various stages of development will help you to guide them toward being more open-minded and understanding. And it will help you to have realistic expectations of your children as well.

Lawrence Kutner, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist at Harvard University and the author of five books on child development.