Strategies for Building Attunement, Tolerance, and Respect

The skill of attunement involves our awareness of others. Much of this comes from our ability to read non-verbal cues i.e. “body language”, but also to notice the differences we see in others compared to ourselves. In order for children to be successfully attuned, they need environments and relationships that promote attachment, self-regulation, and affiliation. Tolerance is the ability to accept those differences we see in others. Respect (Diversity) is the ability to value others’ differences. Keep in mind the importance of your relationship with each child and how that relationship may shape their ability to develop the six core strengths. The following activities and suggestions can help you create an environment that fosters attunement, tolerance, and respect.

Acknowledge, Validate, Generalize

When a child says: Acknowledge the difference: Generalize the sameness:
“Baraka’s food is stinky.” “Baraka’s food smells different from yours.” “All food has different smells.”
“Brian has no daddy.” “Brian lives with his two mommies.” “All kids have grown-ups who care for them.”
“Mayah don’t know how to walk.” “Mayah uses a wheelchair to move.” “All kids have ways of moving.”

Young children naturally begin to notice that others are different from them. By modeling attunement, tolerance, and respect through your own actions and words you can lead children in a direction of growth.

Recognize the diverse needs of the children in your care by creating indoor and outdoor environments that are inclusive of all children’s abilities. Converse with children about their varied abilities and why it is important for everyone to be included and supported. Promote a culture where fairness is not everyone getting the same thing but everyone getting what they need. Children who do not need adaptations to materials or activities can be encouraged to see how those adaptations help their peers participate.

Invite children to discuss and expand on their discussions about their likes and dislikes. Encourage them to notice the differences and similarities in each other’s interests as they play and create.

Acknowledge children’s strengths and highlight peers as resources for support and enjoyment. Providing opportunities for partnered work and play allows children to learn that they can rely on each other and use their strengths to support one another. This also promotes children’s understanding that there is value in working and playing with others.

Invite families to share cultural values that you can incorporate in routines, celebrations, books, and activities. It is important to be sensitive and respectful of the variety of values families may have. Holidays can be opportunities for sharing different values. You can reflect family values and your own with these activities.

  • Create an “Our Family Traditions” book: Invite families to each create a page with pictures and or illustrations and words that describe important family traditions.
  • Values List: While at a circle time, engage the children in creating a list of values that are important to your program and the children. Display that list where children and families can see it.
  • Story Time & Puppetry: Use story time and puppetry to engage children in learning about and discussing what tolerance and respect look and sound like.

Ong, F., & McLean, J. (2013). California Preschool Curriculum Framework (Vol. 3). Sacramento: California Dept. of Education.

Williams, C., Kurtz, J., Juarez, A., & Benitez, D. (2019). Module One: Instructor Guide. In Understanding Trauma and Strategies to Promote Healing. San Francisco, CA: California Child Care Resource & Referral Network.

Perry, Bruce. Six Core Strengths for Healthy Child Development. 2002,

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