Wednesday, 17 September 2014

practicing tolerance





I have been thinking a lot about tolerance lately, probably precipitated by the Referendum for Independence. As I have written before, Scotland is divided at the moment. The division is not just between those who would like an independent Scotland and those who don't. Within these groups the reasons chosen for or against independence are manifold and whatever your reasons are, they will be close to your heart, reflecting different upbringings, political and personal preferences and personality. That's ok, isn't it?

What amazes me is how little tolerance there is for each others opinions, and how people pussy foot around each other just in case they don't see eye to eye, avoiding or even fearing a confrontation. I don't know if this is just how I experience things? Maybe I am a bit of an anxious wuss. I go for a jog most mornings and every morning I pass by scraped-off campaign stickers, usually of the "no thanks" variety but by no means only those. I suppose it depends on your neighbourhood thug's personal opinion because I doubt it is more than one or two individuals in each neighbourhood that make it their business to remove or vandalise campaign material. It makes me feel uncomfortable. The other day on the playground, a conversation about the referendum started and it was only once it became clear that there was no sticker removing "I am right and you are wrong" shouting overzealous campaigner present, that the conversation relaxed and it was actually interesting to hear out each others opinions. For there are interesting and nuanced opinions out there.

This got me thinking. How do you practice tolerance and how do you best teach your children to be tolerant individuals? I don't mean that superficial kind of paper tolerance that is all permeating but truly felt tolerance. How can I achieve this? Like most, I am opinionated, I have preconceptions, I am sometimes  prejudiced and full of unwarranted anxieties about people and stuff, and I am often biased too. Sometimes on the inside, I am profoundly intolerant. Surely, I am doomed to fail my children? Awareness of my shortcomings is probably good. Maybe it is best to accept these and put a conscious effort towards being a truly tolerant person.

No wonder that I sometimes don't sleep! Anyway, I practice tolerance on a daily basis on a smallish scale and maybe this is the way to teach children? Let me give you some examples. I like things to be done my way. Personally, I think my way to fold the washing is unsurpassed and economical in terms of space requirements. But I do my best to ignore the urge to "do it better" if one of my children or Richard does the job differently. The same goes for the dishwasher. Surely there is only one right way (my way) to load it? I remember my mum having hissy fits if it wasn't stacked "the right way"-, or -heaven forbid, the cutlery was mixed up.... Well, I have learned to accept that there are more than one way to load it efficiently and in a space saving manner, even if I would do it differently.

And so it goes, all the way to issues that really matter. I could talk now about all sorts of things, for example on not passing judgment on James' and Alistair's birth parents, or religion. But lets keep it simple for now. Sam recently told me off for being judgmental about his friends. Quite frankly, some of his friends are odd. At least on my oddnessometer. Although I have never been guilty of saying that I don't want him to be friends with certain boys or girls, I have on occasion caught myself suggesting more appropriate company. More appropriate of course as judged by me. Subtly I thought. But apparently not so after all. Sam is of course right, it is not my place to judge his friends. They may be not my choice, but they are his loyal best friends and have been for many years.

I have been thinking about this a lot and I hope that experiences like that help me to become a more tolerant person. At the very least, as a starting point, I am learning to keep quiet when it is not my place to pass judgement.

How about you? Do you face similar dilemmas? And how do you solve them?

That of my chest, I am now going to spend a frantic 30 minutes tidying the mess before going to school. I have discovered that setting a timer to 30 minutes and aiming to do as much as I can in that time is a great way to get things done. Nothing better than a bit of well directed competitiveness.

Have a lovely day! Cx

29 comments:

  1. Did our best to raise our daughter to be tolerant and now we find she's much more tolerant than we are. Or perhaps it's that as you age you become more conservative.
    I hope Scotland says no, I like the idea of a United Kingdom and as a smaller less influential country I fear that Scotland will find life much, much harder.

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    1. I think you have a point, I have noticed that I am more opinionated now than I was when I was younger. It must be the cumulative effect of reflection over the years.

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  2. I fear that what ever the outcome changes are a foot, interesting times for everyone.

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  3. This is so interesting. You sound like a very tolerant person to me and the fact that you are so self-aware speaks volumes about you. We all make judgements about others, let's not pretend otherwise, but hopefully manners kick in and we'll teach out children to treat everyone with the same respect, regardless of our personal opinions. I think manners and tolerance have a great deal in common actually.

    I am gripped by referendum news here, I feel like something historical is happening this week. x

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    1. We are all gripped by the referendum, too. You are very kind to say that I sound like a tolerant person. I think I have a some learning to do but I am on the right path I think.

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  4. I think that it's natural to have opinions and even feelings of intolerance about certain issues, it's what we do with them that matters. I think it's good to work on our feelings but it's more important to behave in a civil and polite manner no matter how we feel inside, if that makes sense. You can help your feelings sometimes, I think they're an integral part of who we are and it would be very difficult to squelch them all the time.

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    1. What I find most difficult that sometimes intolerance surfaces when I least expect it. You know, those moments when you make a throw away comment that later, on reflection was really not appropriate? That's me sometimes.

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  5. It's all about scale isn't it? Yes, we have to be tolerant about the dishwasher (though of course our way is best, even if we only changed to that way last week) but there are some wrongs that cannot be tolerated. Respect is perhaps the most important thing to teach our children.
    What on earth are the media going to fill their time with next week? We've all been swept along with Scotland's decision making.

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    1. I think the news will continue to talk about Scotland in either case. There is so much that will need to be addressed so quickly.

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  6. Hey Christina,
    I've been thinking about this post lot today. Yes we all carry our own intolerance and prejudices around with us. I worked through a number of mine during my counselling training. Some of them were new to me, as I had no awareness of them. And that's the nub isn't it? To be aware of them and try and work though them, in order to gain a better understanding of ourselves and others. My children are a lot less judgmental than me. Sam especially, and he pulls me up on occasion.
    Sam and I will be glued to the bbc tomorrow evening. He is applying to read politics and history at University, so obviously this rocks his boat in every sense of the word. I believe the staying together vote is just pipping the post at the moment....
    Leanne xx

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    1. You know, my kids are less judgmental than I am, too. Maybe it is an age thing? Or maybe schools are playing a larger part in our children's all round education now? I enjoyed counselling sessions a while ago and they were really helpful to become more self aware, and to notice those preconceptions lingering in the back of your mind.
      We'll be glued to the telly, too. Although I think coverage can only start once the polls are closed at 10 pm

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  7. Very thought provoking post. I have always encouraged my sons to try to put themselves in the other persons position. To look at why someone may think and behave the way they do. Ask themselves how they would behave in the other persons position. Always look beyond what they see, and question everything. It is not always easy, we all have our 'prejudices' that we have to recognise and ask ourselves why.

    Whatever the result it will be interesting to see how the different sides come to terms with the results.

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    1. I try to do that myself, putting myself in the other person's position. It is not always easy, you are right.

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  8. You sound very emotionally intelligent to me, Christina. It's hard sometimes isn't it, to know what to do for the best for our children in terms of tolerance. We all want our children to grow up to be balanced individuals, respectful of others and have positive relationships in their lives.
    I don't think there's anything wrong with gently guiding your children to be friends with others that you consider more appropriate but I agree that it's not so easy to have those conversations without sounding judgmental.
    I try to relax, having delegated some jobs such as loading the dishwasher or putting away laundry, no it's not quite how I would've done it, but at least it's done!
    I'll be watching tomorrow to see how the referendum goes. xx

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    1. Thank you Alison, no one has ever called me emotionally intelligent! I noticed that my teenager is challenging my own views and preconceptions more than anyone else. He is really good at articulating his thoughts and I am surprised at his nuanced (albeit often naïve) views. Maybe that is the true role of teenagers?

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  9. Like others have said, being aware of your tolerance and opinions is so important. I ams sure that it is when people aren't that they come across as intolerant and opinionated. I would say it is healthy to have an opinion and I actively encourage this in my children but this has to be balanced with how we express them. That they are an opinion not a statement of fact. I would say it is totally acceptable for you to tell your son that you think his friends are odd and that you are not keen on them, but in doing so saying that is your opinion and that it need not change how he feels about them. It sounds like your mother had strong opinions? As one of the most important adults in a child's life we take our lead from them as our children are from us. Who would be a parent eh?

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    1. Sometimes teenagers don't see an opinion as just that, an opinion.... My mum is actually very nice! Her opinions are no stronger than mine and of course the dishwasher problem is no longer a problem now. It might have been a battle of wills, me stacking it in the most stupid way possible just to annoy her.... successfully.

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  10. What a bold and honest post, Christina. It shows a lot of self-insight. I think everyone has their intolerant sides (I sure as heck know I do) and being aware of them is extremely important. The next step is (I think) to become less attached to our opinions, less attached to being right. How? Just by telling ourselves: "Hey, there I go again, thinking my way is the best way." A wonderful book that has helped me mor than I can say is one I posted about recently: "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff" by Richard Carlson. xxx

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    1. The trouble is that sometimes we are right but I think we need to pick our fights carefully to avoid unnecessary upset. I think you wrote about this author before? I am going to get this book.

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  11. Thought provoking post Christina. I try hard to maintain a tolerant attitude to all, but I know I slip up sometimes. I think it gets harder when you have children, as you have an overwhelming instinct to protect them and it can be hard to keep 'spreading the love' when they make choices that make you question your own values. But that is one of the wonderful things about parenthood too, that it can bring you up short and make you rethink things. I decided to take down my post about the referendum, as I began to think I was using my blog to vocalise my distress about the referendum, and that was not really the right thing to do. However I thank you for your wise words in your comment, now sadly deleted with the post, but I have taken your words to heart and have turned my thoughts to home and hearth today X

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    1. That's a shame Penny, your post was very thoughtful and appropriate. It is only natural to feel anxious when the future of an entire Nation is balanced on a single referendum.

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  12. I wonder how the referendum is going? I am finding the discussions interesting.
    I'm trying to remain tolerant but I'm struggling this week with unbelievably difficult next door neighbours - I'd love to blog about their ridiculousness but I daren't, I am trying to remain calm!
    I have been guilty of being a little judgemental on the children's friends - subtly as you say, I have, on occasion been proved wrong too!
    I hope you're having a good week Christina, I'm missing my blog friends but I'm having trouble keeping up to date just now.

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    1. We'll find out soon enough! It is not always easy to practice tolerance when all you want to do is throw a mug at someone.... What a shame that your neighbours are giving you grief. Do they read your blog? You could always write a post and not publish it, I find this helps to calm down, or you can email me all about it. I am having a good week actually, very busy but with a positive spin. More on that later. I hope you'll find some time to relax soon. Cx

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  13. This was a very brave post, Christina. I actually read it last night before going to bed, but needed to think before I commented. First of all, the fact you are even thinking about this and bringing it up as a discussion point tells me you are most likely a very tolerant person and not doing too much damage to your children. :-)

    The second thing I wanted to say is I think in some ways there are two kinds of tolerance, small "t" tolerance and capital "T" Tolerance. The small "t" stuff is how we load the dishwasher and how we fold the towels (I have been known to unfold and refold towels done by other family members). Being slightly intolerant in these kinds of things does no harm as long as we remain somewhat flexible. Big "T" Tolerance is the one that matters - how we view other people, and more importantly, how we treat other people being at the top of the list.

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    1. Thank you Kristie, I am not sure if my oldest would agree to disagree with you :-) he thinks I treat him terribly (I ask him to take a shower every day!). I like your two intolerances, the small and the big one. Developing the small one is hopefully helping to increase the big one, too. Cx

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  14. I think there are many people in the world who need to learn more tolerance, if we can teach our children then hopefully things will improve, but it is so very hard.

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  15. Just the fact that you are aware says so much. I am opinionated and maybe not all that tolerant. But in my own way I try to be kind. I try not to judge, but I am afraid that is human nature, but if I can just be kind it softens my actions and feelings. And I do have an oddmeter my self. But maybe it is because I too am a bit odd.
    Hugs to you and be easy on yourself, you are a wonderful, caring and loving Mother.
    Meredith

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  16. A really interesting post Christina. Being self aware and even asking the question of yourself is more than many (including myself) often do. I think being aware of your intolerances makes you more tolerant overall.

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  17. I can totally identify with what your are saying here Christina. Oh how I've bitten my tongue when one of my family hangs out the washing "the wrong way" or stacks the dishes "the wrong way". But mostly I do bite my tongue as I realise that we all have different opinions and different ways of doing things, none of them right or wrong. It sounds as though you are doing exactly the "right" thing :)

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Thank you for visiting and leaving a comment, I love to hear from you, I really do. I sometimes reply by email but I am not all that reliable... Christina xx