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Queens Chronicle

Teaching Children To Accept Others

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Posted: Monday, April 22, 2013 1:00 am | Updated: 4:32 am, Mon Apr 22, 2013.

(StatePoint) The world is changing and parents need to make sure their children are prepared to succeed in an increasingly globalized economy, say experts.

The United States is often regarded as a melting pot, a place for people of different backgrounds to come together and ultimately grow alike. But the truth is that from language to food to religious practice, unique cultural traditions are all around us.

“We must not try to erase differences but rather respect them, even celebrate them,” says Rajiv Malhotra, author of the book, “Being Different: An Indian Challenge to Western Universalism” (HarperCollins Publishers). Malhotra believes we can look to India as an example of a distinct society that peacefully integrates many diverse people.

Alongside reading, writing and arithmetic, cultural diversity should be at the forefront of your children’s lesson plan. But don’t just encourage tolerance. Go a step further.

“Tolerance is a patronizing posture,” says Malhotra, “We need to learn to respect, even appreciate and not merely tolerate religious and cultural differences.”

Here are some tips to teach children to respect one another as they become citizens of the world:

• Absorbing the nuances of a second language is easiest when one is young, so sign your kids up for a language class at an early age. Better yet, learn along with them.

• Pack your bags and take a trip. Dust off your passport or keep it domestic. Even within the United States, there is great opportunity to be exposed to new cultural experiences.

• Think differently. There are fundamental differences between the Western worldview and the Eastern worldview, say scholars. People from different countries have different traditions, religious customs and histories that shape their thinking. Being accepting of others means opening your mind to the idea that there are different approaches to resolving the problems impacting our complex world.

• Read a book. You don’t need to be a globetrotter to learn about other cultures. Your local librarian can help you find age-appropriate books that will introduce children to other cultures and allow them to explore them deeply. For example, India has a rich history and culture that goes beyond the Western embrace of spicy foods, yoga and meditation.

• Encourage friendships. Enroll your children in activities, camps and programs that foster relationships with kids of all religious, racial and economic backgrounds.

• Engage in a substantive dialogue with others that explores new ideas about the world beyond your backyard. “Question your values and be open to seeing the merit in the ideas of others,” suggests Malhotra, who founded the Infinity Foundation to encourage better East-West relations. For more information about his new book visit www.beingdifferentbook.com.

• Host a potluck. Invite your friends over and have them bring dishes featuring their family recipes. You may find your circle of friends is more culturally diverse than you thought!

By investing the time to teach these lessons, you can contribute toward making schools and communities a safer place for your kids.

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