Many parents overlook the importance of teaching religious tolerance at home. In today's world, where children are exposed to a variety of different backgrounds, belief systems and cultures, it's more important than ever that kids grow up learning to be tolerant and accepting of other people. Tolerance of this kind begins at home, and it's up to you as a parent to help teach your child the proper behavior in this respect.
The Parental Influence
Studies have shown that parents are able to provide children with some of the most comprehensive and persuasive teaching. This is due to a wide variety of factors that cannot be attained at school. Among them are the fact that children love and trust their parents and the fact that children spend a great deal more time with their parents (and have since an early age) than they do with virtually any other person. Because of this, it's crucial that you don't just leave the instruction on tolerance to a teacher or another figure in your child's life; you are the best source of information for your own child.
Teaching by Example
More than the impact that literal teaching has on a child is the impact that your behavior will have. If your child observes you being tolerant and understanding of people of different religions, he'll be much more likely to adopt your behaviors and beliefs. If, on the other hand, your child grows up in an area in which you or other people in your home are intolerant (or if you tolerate people who are intolerant in your home, for instance), your child may learn that these behaviors are the appropriate ones. Because behaviors that you aren't even aware of can influence your child, it's very important that you be cautious and make a concerted effort to show tolerance of people, regardless of their religious beliefs.
The best way to instill religious tolerance in your child at home is through proper education. It's very easy for a child to be misinformed about the nature of various people, cultures and religions. Misinformation can come from the Internet, television, friends, and even well-meaning sources like teachers and parents themselves. Take the time to properly educate yourself about various religions before you work to teach your child about them.
By presenting him with a thorough, well-studied overview of different religious groups, you'll show by example that you care about the people and belief systems that you're talking about. This will inevitably rub off on your child. Additionally, he'll be less likely to fall prey to rumors and misinformation that tends to float around regarding different religions.
For more information on how to teach religious tolerance at home, visit religious communities in your town. You can also find support groups and other events that are designed to teach about religion.