When Kids Say the Darnedest Things
Our precious kids are exposed to a large number of people every day. Each person that they come in contact with can potentially influence them in some way. What happens, then, when your kids utter some breathtakingly racist, sexist, ageist, classist, or otherwise prejudiced statement out of the blue? What is the best way for you to respond?
- 1. In a calm and non-accusatory manner, tell your kids that those are hurtful words. Explain to your kids how stereotypes and false assumptions about people can be hurtful. Ask your kids how they would feel if someone judged them adversely based on their race, gender, socioeconomic group, etc. Discuss how every person is a unique individual who may or may not conform to any stereotypical trait. Discuss people your kids know who do not fit within stereotypes (i.e., the elderly neighbor who goes off-roading in his 4×4 truck, the lady down the block who is a professional arc welder, and the Sunday school teacher who holds a PhD and comes from an affluent family but actively speaks against consumerism and lives a life of apparent poverty). Discuss empathy and the value of human understanding. Discuss the value of humans.
- 2. Once you have communicated the message in #1 above, ask your kids where they learned the prejudiced perspective.
- 3. Follow up as appropriate regarding the source of that prejudiced statement. For example, if your kids says that one of their schoolmates was the source, you may be well advised to visit with your kids’ teachers and request multicultural or sensitivity training for the class or student body as a whole. You may even volunteer to help coordinate that activity. Speakers from within various stereotyped groups can be brought into the school to address prejudice and acceptance.
- 4. Monitor closely what your kids say thereafter to ensure that your kids have absorbed the message you have given them.
- 5. If prejudice persists, involve your family in activities that will cause your kids to interact with the groups about whom they are prejudiced. Help them see that their generalized assumptions about a group of people are inaccurate and inappropriate. (Activities may include going off-roading with your neighbor and his “muddy buddies”, job shadowing the lady arc welder, and going with the Sunday school teacher to a rally on the cultural challenges of consumerism.)
- 6. When prejudice persists further, you may need to consider removing your kids from the environment in which they are experiencing ongoing exposure to the prejudice. For example, if the source is a schoolmate, you may want to consider transferring your kids to a different school.
By handling prejudiced statements promptly in the above referenced manner, you can ensure that you are raising kids who are enlightened to the value of all humans, without prejudging them based on false and misleading stereotypes.
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