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When in Rome . . . And Other Life Lessons for Kids


I want to take my kids to Europe.

See the sights.  Experience the art.  Take in the food . . . the history . . . the culture.

I’ve realized that when I take my kids to Europe it will be more than exposing them to the beauty, the allure, the attraction of Europe – and beyond.

They will also learn . . .

to suck it up  .  .  .  “tiens le coup,” as they say in France.  In English terms, it means:  to withstand the weather; to endure; to tough it out, and to stick it out.

I’m not talking about the “sucking it up” that they learn on a mission trip or otherwise.  That’s another story.  For another time (but certainly on the radar screen).

Taking kids to another country requires them to learn tolerance and the appreciation of differences, while learning to relinquish their advantaged American conveniences.  When in Rome, they learn to do as the Romans do, and so on with the French in France, the Swiss in Switzerland, and the Germans in Allemagne.  There are life lessons to be had among it all – and hopefully life-lasting ones at that.

Pondering this reminds me of the Dutch soccer coach we hosted for a week this summer.  I marveled at his tolerance and acceptance of anything (and everything) American, even though it was clearly a bit foreign and not exactly adherent to his accustomed daily tastes.  Yet he accepted everything with a gracious and pleasant smile; although deep down I knew, at times, he was simply sucking it up – with a grand “tiens le coup” attitude.  I would look admiringly at him, thinking:  “That’s just what my kids need to learn.”  (Acceptance, tolerance, and gracious appreciation of the diversity in the world).  Yep.

I’m planning my trip to Europe.  I’ll call it the Terri Trenchard Tiens Le Coup Lesson Book for Life.  The train will be waiting.

Until then, I leave us with this:   (from Teaching Your Kids Tolerance):

How Can Parents Teach Tolerance?

Parents can teach tolerance by example — and in other ways, too. Talking together about tolerance and respect helps kids learn more about the values you want them to have. Giving them opportunities to play and work with others is important as well. This lets kids learn firsthand that everyone has something to contribute and to experience differences and similarities.

Things parents can do to help kids learn tolerance include:

  • Notice your own attitudes. Parents who want to help their kids value diversity can be sensitive to cultural stereotypes they may have learned and make an effort to correct them. Demonstrate an attitude of respect for others.
  • Remember that kids are always listening. Be aware of the way you talk about people who are different from yourself. Do not make jokes that perpetuate stereotypes. Although some of these might seem like harmless fun, they can undo attitudes of tolerance and respect.
  • Select books, toys, music, art, and videos carefully. Keep in mind the powerful effect the media and pop culture have on shaping attitudes.
  • Point out and talk about unfair stereotypes that may be portrayed in media.
  • Answer kids’ questions about differences honestly and respectfully. This teaches that it is acceptable to notice and discuss differences as long as it is done with respect.
  • Acknowledge and respect differences within your own family. Demonstrate acceptance of your children’s differing abilities, interests, and styles. Value the uniqueness of each member of your family.
  • Remember that tolerance does not mean tolerating unacceptable behavior. It means that everyone deserves to be treated with respect — and should treat others with respect as well.
  • Help your children feel good about themselves. Kids who feel badly about themselves often treat others badly. Kids with strong self-esteem value and respect themselves and are more likely to treat others with respect, too. Help your child to feel accepted, respected, and valued.
  • Give kids opportunities to work and play with others who are different from them. When choosing a school, day camp, or child-care facility for your child, find one with a diverse population.
  • Learn together about holiday and religious celebrations that are not part of your own tradition.
  • Honor your family’s traditions and teach them to your kids — and to someone outside the family who wants to learn about the diversity you have to offer.

When parents encourage a tolerant attitude in their children, talk about their values, and model the behavior they would like to see by treating others well, kids will follow in their footsteps.

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