Shocking comments by 5 year old - Mothering Forums

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Old 12-27-2009, 10:33 PM - Thread Starter
 
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At our family holiday gathering, my cousin's 5 year old child made some extremely shocking comments about a number of ethnic/religious/racial groups OUTSIDE the presence of her parents. The only adults present were my husband and my sister. My husband is Mexican, and was was shocked at what he heard come out of this child's mouth. He was eve more upset because he was holding our baby and, of course, neither of us want her exposed to such hateful talk. My initial response was to assume that she heard these things from her parents, but I know that may not necessarily be true.

My husband said that he was too shocked to think of an appropriate response that would make this a teaching moment for the child, and so I thought that I would pose the question on this board. How would you handle such a situation? I would like to think about this now so we can be prepared in the event that this should happen again either around this same child or anyone else.

TIA!

Me and DH, parents to:

DD1 (06/09), Twin DD2 and DS1 (born 3/12- 6 weeks early due to IUGR)

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Old 12-28-2009, 12:54 AM
 
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Not really sure what to say to recommend to you because we don't know what SHE said...

Also, 5 yr olds may say things they don't feel or understand.
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Old 12-28-2009, 03:18 AM
 
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Agree with PP. My reaction would depend a lot on what the child said.

If it were a racial epithet, I would ask her not to say that because it's impolite and hurtful.

If it were a stereotype of behavior or something, I might tell her that not all (fill-in-the-blank) people do that and she might hurt someone's feelings by saying so. But I might also say nothing, it really depends.
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Old 12-28-2009, 11:10 AM - Thread Starter
 
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It was something along the lines of "I hate all Mexicans, Asians, Indians and Jews" etc. She then proceeded to make individual comments about each ("Jews have no brains" etc.).

Again, as I wasn't there, I am not entirely certain how this all unfolded. I understand that she is almost certainly repeating what she has heard elsewhere.
Just so sad to hear about. . .

Me and DH, parents to:

DD1 (06/09), Twin DD2 and DS1 (born 3/12- 6 weeks early due to IUGR)

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Old 12-28-2009, 11:22 AM
 
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Children can say the most hurtful things sometimes. She could very well not really understanding what she was saying. She could just repeating what she heard adults say.

If she says it again, maybe you or your husband can gently say that it is a hurtful comment and impolite. It is a great opportunity to educate a child about different races and how we all live together in this world.

The best thing a mother can do is to love the children.
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Old 12-28-2009, 02:32 PM
 
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I would tell her it is not a nice thing to say. I would tell her parents what she said. She is repeating it from somewhere (babysitter, television, a relative, etc.), and they should be aware of it.

Happily married mom to DS (Aug 09) and two furry troublemakers.

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Old 12-28-2009, 05:00 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for your responses.

We are just so frustrated about this. . .

Me and DH, parents to:

DD1 (06/09), Twin DD2 and DS1 (born 3/12- 6 weeks early due to IUGR)

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Old 12-28-2009, 10:20 PM
 
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I'm interested in the advice you get here. My SD says similar type things in our home (she lives in a small town where this stuff is common to think/say). We have heard her say awful things about different races, religions, and sexual orientations. I'm like you where I don't want my son hearing these things, especially in our house. We have said to her that we don't allow hateful talk in our house, and that we never judge anyone for being different than us. Her stepfather, mother, and maternal grandparents all seem to put these thoughts in her head so it seems to be a constant battle. Just an idea of what is said, she said once that Martin Luther King jr. was not a good man and he "got a lot of stuff started", I asked where she heard this and she said her step dad.
I didn't mean to hijack your thread! I am eagerly waiting for the replies you get though.
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Old 12-28-2009, 10:21 PM
 
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Originally Posted by ThankfulMama View Post
It was something along the lines of "I hate all Mexicans, Asians, Indians and Jews" etc. She then proceeded to make individual comments about each ("Jews have no brains" etc.).

Again, as I wasn't there, I am not entirely certain how this all unfolded. I understand that she is almost certainly repeating what she has heard elsewhere.
Just so sad to hear about. . .
Ah, that might have been a perfect opportunity for your husband to say he's Mexican, does that mean you hate me too? Make her think a bit.
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Old 12-28-2009, 10:26 PM
 
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I understand that she is almost certainly repeating what she has heard elsewhere.
Not necessarily. Children like order and try to create it. Sometimes this causes them to put order to people in ways that are inappropriate. I recommend reading the chapter about this in Nurture Shock.

I would write her parents a note/email about what happened, and recommend they read Nurture Shock also. If you feel excessively generous you could buy them a copy, but they can probably find it in the library.

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Old 12-29-2009, 02:15 AM
 
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You know, my (multi-cultural) son has said some pretty shocking things about hating people of different races, too, and I feel pretty confident saying he didn't pick it up from his parents or anyone he spends a lot of time with. As the PP mentioned, kids can be pretty creative in this department as they try to sort out the differences they see I wouldn't assume that she heard it from her parents. That said, I agree that it would have challenged the sterotypes she was trying out a bit. In our case, I did have to challenge his ideas a few times before he dropped them.
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Old 12-29-2009, 02:47 AM
 
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Yeah, agree with the previous 2 posters. DD has grown up around gay people, some of whom are married and have kids. Her godfather is gay and lives with a man and she sees them regularly and understands they are in the relationship and are soooo gaaaay (right now they're introducing her to the Spice Girls, HA!) Nonetheless, she has come out with some doozies about the roles of men and women, has very black and white thinking about gender, etc in the past. I totally figured it was the just the ordering the world phase and we just gently correct her when she talks shite. Eg: Kid: Men don't wear makeup: Us: well, godfather likes to wear makeup sometimes too, so it's not just women. etc. Stuff like that. She is also 5.
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Old 12-29-2009, 05:55 PM
 
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Originally Posted by ThankfulMama View Post
At our family holiday gathering, my cousin's 5 year old child made some extremely shocking comments about a number of ethnic/religious/racial groups OUTSIDE the presence of her parents. The only adults present were my husband and my sister. My husband is Mexican, and was was shocked at what he heard come out of this child's mouth. He was eve more upset because he was holding our baby and, of course, neither of us want her exposed to such hateful talk. My initial response was to assume that she heard these things from her parents, but I know that may not necessarily be true.

My husband said that he was too shocked to think of an appropriate response that would make this a teaching moment for the child, and so I thought that I would pose the question on this board. How would you handle such a situation? I would like to think about this now so we can be prepared in the event that this should happen again either around this same child or anyone else.

TIA!
What did this child say?
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Old 12-29-2009, 06:17 PM
 
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I think I would have asked her, "Where did you hear that?"

And it might have also been interesting for your DH to say, "I'm Mexican, am I (insert whatever criticism she had about Mexicans)?" But I have no idea what I'd say if she said "Yes, of course!"

Homeschooling mama to 6 year old DD.

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Old 12-29-2009, 06:30 PM
 
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I think the most important thing about these comments is not that they are rude and mean, but that they are wrong. In this situation, I would try to calmly state my own opinions without creating an adversarial situation. I might say something like, "Oh, really? I like people of all different races/nationalities. The world would be so boring if we were all the same." And address each individual comment individually.

We heard some sexist comments from our niece and we addressed it in this way--and I think it really opened her eyes. (And in our case, it was definitely coming from her parents.)

I would bring it up with the parents. If she is getting it from them, you need to know. And if she isn't, they need to know so that they can talk to her about it.
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Old 12-29-2009, 11:02 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I would bring it up with the parents. If she is getting it from them, you need to know. And if she isn't, they need to know so that they can talk to her about it.
I totally agree with that.

I guess I'm just not entirely sure how far to take any discussion with a child her age. The ideas here seem to suggest that I should keep it very simple (which makes sense). I appreciate the input!

Me and DH, parents to:

DD1 (06/09), Twin DD2 and DS1 (born 3/12- 6 weeks early due to IUGR)

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Old 01-22-2010, 02:33 PM
 
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Some children don't realize what they're saying half the time is wrong and not acceptable.
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Old 01-26-2010, 07:49 PM
 
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i agree with PPs that children that age can be very close-minded about the differences they perceive in other people. i remember very clearly saying some extraordinarily rude things to a male friend of our family who had long hair. i've also heard a lot of sexist comments out of kids who i know aren't getting it from their parents, but kids that age have a very stereotypical way of understanding the world and it's not necessarily a sign that they will grow up to be sexists (i myself ended up never dating a man with shorter hair than me until i met my husband!).

however, i will say that racial comments (besides basic comments on appearance) are a bit more unusual than sexist or homophobic comments, and i would definitely get your partner to tell the child's parents what was said. assuming that they haven't said those things in her hearing themselves, they should be aware so that they can have a dialogue with her about those kinds of beliefs. if she says something like that again, i wouldn't really engage beyond saying, "that's untrue and very rude to say," and letting her parents know again. i don't really think it would be your place to enter into that dialogue with her, especially at such a young age. it really should be her parents who decide how to discuss race etc with their child.
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Old 01-28-2010, 12:30 PM
 
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I think that half the time they don't even know what the trash they're spouting means. They may have seen someone of a certain background once and not even realize that their classmates or parents' friends are the same.

Do you think she was trying to shock those listening to her? An attention-attracting game? Trying to look "cool"?? Please note, that wouldn't justify it!

My ds heard on the playground at school that "Americans are dumber than dumb" (a common French expression). It was when the whole war question was raging here in France. It was unclear whether my kids were the target. I know they were just repeating what their parents had said at home, and it was probably "politically" motivated, since "Americans" aren't really one ethnic group. They probably wouldn't know an American if they tripped over one. Actually, I know they wouldn't because my kids get teased about being "English". Ugh.

One interesting comment from a little girl in my dd's class. We were petting a dog of another family after school. I asked her if they had one too. She answered "No, we're Arab". Of course, very friendly like, I answered "Well, we're not and we don't have one either!"

I think part of it is sorting out their own identities and where they fit in.
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Old 01-28-2010, 03:43 PM
 
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One interesting comment from a little girl in my dd's class. We were petting a dog of another family after school. I asked her if they had one too. She answered "No, we're Arab". Of course, very friendly like, I answered "Well, we're not and we don't have one either!"
Just wanted to insert that, culturally, her comment actually made sense. Many Arabs consider dogs to be an unclean animal. In fact, sales of pet dogs (and cats) were banned in Saudi Arabia not that long ago because they were becoming popular and the authorities considered it un-Islamic to own one. Our two dogs are sometimes a major source of contention with my (Arab) inlaws. The little girl's family very well may have explained to her that it was not OK for them to own a dog for cultural reasons.
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Old 01-28-2010, 05:24 PM
 
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My favorite response to anything unusual a child says is to go "Tell me about that." And then usually you hear more to the story. It might go something like "I heard it on TV and I said it to my dad and he told me not to say that around him. But I can say that around YOU." Or whatever.

It helps to get more of the story. Somehow, I'm much better when I hear these things coming out of kids than some of DH's relatives! Then, I REALLY don't know what to say, because they DO know what they are saying.

Third generation WOHM. I work by choice.
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