How I teach children Acceptance

Screen Shot 2013-07-22 at 7.42.54 AMAcceptance is not a one off sit down lesson in class. Acceptance is not just a topic you discuss every now and then. Acceptance is a daily value that is an important characteristic of who you are, it is a fundamental core value.  Acceptance of others and teaching your children acceptance starts with you because as a parent you are most influential human being in your child’s life.

What you say, how you react, that roll of the eyes and the times you think they can’t hear you filters into a child’s mind so very quickly and in an instance an opinion whether it is good or bad is formed. Just like that.

The influence we have as parents in shaping our children’s acceptance of others is nothing short of miraculous. It can supersede peer pressure, if we place a strong enough value on acceptance of another human being whatever their unique differences are . Educating children on acceptance of others and of themselves creates a sense of justice, when you have a sense of justice you create a better and kinder world.

 Teaching Acceptance at School

Mr 12 “Today I learnt a very important lesson called acceptance. It means accepting others. Not making ideas in my head about that I think they are like. Not presuming things about them because of the colour of their skin, the way they speak, or what they wear and any differences that may be physical or just a difference. Mrs Brown made us all take off our shoes this morning the whole class girls and boys. She lay them all out and mixed them all up in rows. I sat there thinking what ever will she do next? Her lessons are always not like a regular lesson, fun and sometimes deep.

She called us up and with our eyes shut we had to pick up two shoes. I had 1 boy shoe and 1 girl shoe. All 22 of us did this. She then made us wear the shoes all day. It didn’t matter if we complained and said it was too small, or too big. So we spent the day in odd shoes. At recess the other classes did point and laugh, which I didn’t like so I stuck with my class. It was difficult to run in odd shoes and mine were pinching a bit. After lunch we came inside and Mrs Brown asked us how we were feeling in our different and odd shoes. The answers were : sore, weird, don’t like it, we didn’t have a choice. Mrs Brown said “We shouldn’t make ideas in our heads when we don’t really know someone as we are not in their shoes and don’t know everything that is going on in their life. Sometimes people have no choice (Like us we had no choice) and have to we are the shoes they are given. Differences are part of human nature and that everyone has a heart inside. I felt sad with myself as I know I have been nasty sometimes to other kids at school who I thought it was ok to laugh at. I know how that felt when the other classes were laughing at me at recess. Now I know that I am not living their life or wearing their shoes. Man I thought the swap shoe thing was crazy but man what a cool way to show a whole class that you can’t ever know what it’s like to be in someone else shoes. That will stay in my head forever”

This is one of the ways I teach acceptance to children. I have been known to also paint a class in an array of colours and have them wear clothes from the dress up box. Visual prompts help children comprehend that differences whatever they may be does not change who they are inside. We are all humans. We discuss why some people are different physically and how some people’s differences may not be physical with our common ground being that we all have a heart and feelings.People can look different, people can sound different yet we are all people. We chat about thinking before we speak and counting in our heads up to five and we imagine  what it might be like to be the other child or person and take a few moments to think about what we might say. Empathy is the key to acceptance. Children who feel good and accept who they are themselves are more respectful towards others and are also less likely to bully.

Teaching Children Acceptance Everyday 



Think before you speak. Is this kind?

Don’t use mean or nasty word to describe a person. Imagine that person is you.

Role model acceptance everyday

Read books that have a variety of different characters and cover different cultures

Explain that differences may not be physical; Differences show up in many ways. The important factor is we are all human.

Teach children compassion and empathy

Teach young children that everyone is unique.

Teach young children differences by showing them how varied everything is in nature.

Explain to children that everyone even thinks differently

 Carly Findlay has some great tips and advice here too “Preparing Children for meeting people”

 What can you add to this?


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Nathalie Brown

Child Behaviour Consultant at Easy Peasy Kids
Child Behaviourist and researcher. Creator of "Less tantrums. More smiles". I look at the bigger picture and think outside the box when working with children and their behaviour. Their world is different. As adults we sometimes forget this. Happiness Creator in my spare time. Eater of chocolate and cake.

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  1. Nathalie this is wonderful. I’ve been thinking so much about exactly this issue lately and the questions you’ve posed for kids to ask themselves are perfect. I’m printing that out and will be taking this approach with R. I’ve also pinned it to my parenting board and sharing on my wall.

  2. What a gorgeous post Natalie and I loved your student’s account of the lesson on acceptance that you did with them. A powerful example for young children. Thank you so much for sharing this and I also appreciate the link over to Carly’s post as well. When you have an overly verbal child who is quite young they really can come out with some doozys! Knowing ways that we can phrase things to them and help them gain that understanding is very helpful. I completely agree that it starts with us though and our behaviour to others. Thanks and I hope you don’t mind that I’ve shared that end poster on my FB page with a link to this post. x

  3. What a great post 🙂 thank you for linking me here! You are such a good teacher and I really thank you for helping shape children’s minds about visible difference

  4. Hi Nathalie, do you have other writing about how to make children understand about adult thing, because sometimes my child asks about adult things and it’s hard for me to explain it in a good way…im not a good teacher 🙁

  5. You write about this so well, I’ll definitely be carrying your words with me as a parent and a teacher.

  6. Thanks for sharing. Such an important message that really resonates with me. I never thought of dress ups to broaden my kids empathy circle.

  7. Hi Natalie, could you share with me the list.of questions Ness @ one perfect day is talking about. Also, I don’t get along with both my 8 & 7 year old girls. I want to friends but seems like i. Doing it all wrong

  8. Amanda Elliott says

    Very interesting and important message. I will be sure to think about ways to put this into action with my young toddlers

  9. Oh Natalie, I am so glad you tweeted a link to this post, today, International Day of People with Disability. For the last two years I have been taking my daughter to school, I am a little nervous to come across those children who have never been taught these lessons. You know, the ones that tap you on the back and in a loud voice say ‘what are those!?’, pointing to my hearing aides. I dread when I will one day need to walk through with a white cane as my vision deteriorates. It has been on my mind today to approach the principal to offer myself to come in and teach the students about disability next year, just so no young children with visible differences need to feel the hurt that comes from comments and stares by children who have not been taught acceptance. Reading this post has given me to courage and knowledge to do it. I will contact the school and show them this post. Thank you!


  1. […] This is another hands-on activity from Easy Peasy Kids, which has the children wear shoes that do not fit them to experience what it is like to be someone else… helping them to develop empathy.  Read more about the activity here. […]

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