Something disturbing my DD said . . . - Mothering Forums

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Old 11-15-2006, 05:37 PM - Thread Starter
 
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BAckground: X was a boy in DD's school who is Indian-American. He transferred out recently.

DD (5 in Feb.) said, "I am glad X is gone. I didn't like him." Then, "He is too dark. I can't see him." I told her that just because someone has more/less melanin (we have discussed skin color from a scientific stance 'cause it was in a book), or is taller/shorter, thinner/heavier, etc. than she, that is no reason not to like someone. She said, "Well, you can't like everyone" (which is true-- words I've said myself to her) but I told her again that more or less melanin-- skin color-- is NOT a reason. Had he hurt her in some way (which he never did; he is a calm person), I could see that . . .but not skin color. I also told her that if she couldn't see X, we have to get her eyes checked out.

Then she told me she can only see white people, "like you, Mommy." (Unfortunately, she learned this from $%#* Pocahontas, a book I dislike anyway and always edit that phrase . . .but my mom/DH reading it to her did not.) I told her to look at my hand . . .I am pink, blue, and my hair is brown. I am not white. No one is white. (She said, "Well that is what the Native Americans call them"-- yes-- she got this from Pocahontas.) I held up a piece of white paper to her skin and asked if she is white. She said no, but that she can only see white people.

It really bothers me that this thought is even entering into her head-- skin color as a reason to dislike someone??? I don't get it. DH is Asian and DD looks Asian, too . . .she is going to be shocked to find out that people don't consider her to be "white." I am trying to raise her to be bilingual (Spanish/English) but she rejects Spanish so strongly (she started rejecting it at 3; now I only speak it to her sister). We lived in a diverse area of a diverse city until last year. While where we live isn't nearly as diverse as a whole, the places she goes (classes) and will be going to (school next year) are, statistically speaking.

What do I do? What do I say? Am I just worrying prematurely?

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Old 11-15-2006, 05:49 PM
 
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Hmmm...it's hard to say. It sounds like you're handling it well and it's great you can have an open dialog about it.

I might get flamed for this, but I remember disliking the first African American girl I ever knew (in kindergarten) because she looked very different to me. I wasn't used to her appearance. I think little kids often judge people based on their appearances. Once I got to know her, I liked her.

I am not racist at all. I think, since she is being raised in an open-minded environment, that your dd will be fine.
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Old 11-15-2006, 06:23 PM
 
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My nephew said something along those lines when he first noticed someone with darker skin, when he was 4 years old. I think it is just something some kids will experience as their first initial reaction to something that is different than they are used to. Maybe not the greatest example, but if a kid is raised on all white bread, the first time they encounter whole wheat, they will probably be grossed out, until they get used to it.
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Old 11-15-2006, 06:54 PM
 
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Maybe not the greatest example, but if a kid is raised on all white bread, the first time they encounter whole wheat, they will probably be grossed out, until they get used to it.
This is so offensive, I don't even know what to say.

Does anyone put themselves in the place of a child who is on the receiving end of this kind of talk? Should a brown child just suck it up and deal with the white child who decides that random white child doesn't like him or her because they are the wrong "flavor", and just wait for that child to think he or she isn't "gross" anymore?

I'm sorry I don't have any specific advice to give, but I'd try to find some playmates of color for your dd. Did she perhaps (over)hear something from someone at her school about this little boy?
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Old 11-15-2006, 07:02 PM
 
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It is never too early to start worrying about her responses to difference. I'm glad you're concerned, many parents would blow it off. And it sounds like she may be internalizing racism, especially problematic if her father is Asian. I had a Korean teen friend (adopted) who was raised solely around White people and as an adult, hated other Asians and only wanted to associate with White people. She thought she was "ugly," and had horrible self-esteem.

Here's a good book: 40 Ways to Raise a Nonracist Child by Barbara Mathias. There are other recommendations inside the book.
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Old 11-15-2006, 07:05 PM
 
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Wow- maybe there IS something good about little kids watching TV- all of my children grew up seeing children of various colors, shapes, sizes and abilities on shows such as Sesame Street. As annoying as some of the Disney Channel shows are, they ALWAYS show multicultural environments, the main character's best friend is usually of another race, etc.

When my kids were little, they never "saw" race, esp not in kids their age. By the time they noticed the physical differences, a simple "G-d makes people in all shapes, colors and sizes" was all they needed to hear. If we ever encountered racism in media, I ALWAYS pointed out that yes, some people think/used to think this way, but it's wrong. People are people!

Since she's already been exposed to racist ideas, I think she needs some counter-education. Teach her how much racism hurts people. Read her lots of books about people from different cultures. If you read her the Pocahontis book again, don't edit out the racist line- use it as a discussion point. If you allow TV viewing, then make a point to show her shows and videos that counter the message she must have picked up somewhere. It's no longer enough to be "color-blind" around her.

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Old 11-15-2006, 07:08 PM
 
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This is tough. Kids this age do sort and experiment with behavior that we consider quite off as they get older (gender stuff is much more common) but my son briefly went through a phase where he liked people for having "yellow hair like me" and I have brown hair so he wasn't getting it from us. Obviously, negative behavior towards children of color can't be tolerated, but I don't know that the negativity stems from the same sort of place where older kids/adults get it from and think as such it should be treated differently that if it stemmed from the same source, ykwim?

I don't know if my reaction would be to find her playmates of color --- this seems sort of unfair to them --- selecting friends based on their color is sort of iffy regardless of intention & might be hard on the playmates you select while she is sorting through this. I would purchase her some baby dolls of color, take her to more diverse environments, expose her to some media images and books with kids of a variety of background (but not necessarily those with racial messages since she does not seem sophisticated enough to grasp them right now based on her reaction to Pocahontas, yk?)

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Old 11-15-2006, 07:11 PM
 
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It really bothers me that this thought is even entering into her head-- skin color as a reason to dislike someone??? I don't get it. DH is Asian and DD looks Asian, too . . .she is going to be shocked to find out that people don't consider her to be "white."
Here's my thought, tell me if you think there might be something to it.

She knows she doesn't look white. Maybe someone said something racist to her already. She's trying to ally herself with the winning team.

What she said is an expression of some stuff about herself, and maybe something painful--like that she doesn't "see" herself?

I don't know how I would handle it if I were you. I might spell out my beliefs in a neutral way. I mean, you did marry Daddy and he's not white, so obviously you don't think only white people are pretty--or visible!

There might be some books about how to raise a child with mixed heritage in a racist society. I bet there are some moms on here who have BTDT.

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Old 11-15-2006, 07:17 PM
 
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FroNuf, I totally did not mean it as any sort of parallel. I'm sorry it was offensive to you. I just meant that if someone is used to something and they are not introduced to something different, their initial reaction may be one of dislike. I totally see how you would be offended, though. I seriously did not mean it as a parallel. My daughter is mixed race and I guess I was just trying to lighten things up. Oops, I did not mean that in a racist way. Anyway, the bread analogy isn't the greatest. Let's say, processed food and veggies.
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Old 11-15-2006, 07:30 PM
 
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...oh and I don't mean to imply that children of different races are "gross" either. I was just trying to get into the mind of a child and using a different example of how they sometimes react when confronted with something different. The "gross" bit relates only to the bread/veggies analogy.
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Old 11-15-2006, 07:34 PM
 
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. Let's say, processed food and veggies.
nak

why does it have to be good stuff and bad stuff? why can't it be Gala apples and/or Red Delicious, which are both great apples, and yet have distinct flavors.

And as a pp mentioned, tv show isnt nessessarily a great way to expose your child to other races, especially in this circumstance... 'As annoying as some of the Disney Channel shows are, they ALWAYS show multicultural environments, the main character's best friend is usually of another race, etc' why does it always have to be the side kick? always the bridesmaid, eh? Sesame Street is pretty sweet in the multicultural regard, but I havent seen it in about 15 years...maybe off and on since then.

I think what captain said was pretty on target 'She knows she doesn't look white. Maybe someone said something racist to her already. She's trying to ally herself with the winning team.' thats maybe why she said 'like you mommy'

is her school mostly caucasian/beige-y peach people? if that is the case I would get my kid out in the world! check out some new playgrounds, go shop and eat and hang in more diverse neighborhoods, if yours isnt so much.
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Old 11-15-2006, 07:36 PM
 
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It isn't "good" stuff and "bad" stuff. If that were the case, you would read further into my analogy and infer that I prefer darker skinned people. (And I don't- PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE!). Yes, it could be cheerios and puffed wheat. Whatever. (But then someone could come along and deduce something based on the nutritional analysis, infer something else because one is more "good" than another... that is not the point).

The point is that children tend to react, in many cases, to things they are unfarmiliar with, with dislike.

But I guess I must be racist for thinking this way. Gah.
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Old 11-15-2006, 07:53 PM
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The point is that children tend to react, in many cases, to things they are unfarmiliar with, with dislike..
I disagree. A healthy child will react with curiousity, not dislike nor distrust.
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Old 11-15-2006, 07:58 PM
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http://www.mothering.com/discussions...d.php?t=339847 You would probably find this thread informative.
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Old 11-15-2006, 08:07 PM
 
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I disagree. A healthy child will react with curiousity, not dislike nor distrust.
Oh wow, really? How far does that extend? Does that also extend to food? Does that take into account a child's very limited vocabulary? Are you including BamBam's mom in your blanket statement? Are you factoring in any number of possible "reasons" a child may have for her association with something being different which would compel her for a temporary bout of confusion and possibly dislike (which is just a word, and carries as many meanings as you could possibly imagine, especially to a child, who only knows feelings.. and to whom dislike probably equals uncomfortableness, which occurs initially when one is not accustomed to something)? Etc etc.
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Old 11-15-2006, 08:12 PM
 
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I disagree. A healthy child will react with curiousity, not dislike nor distrust.
I agree. If a child hasn't been sheltered from difference, and "difference" is part of their everyday life (whether food, people, clothing, neighborhoods, etc), curiosity and questions and interest is the normal response. Some of those questions and curiosity might not be PC (i.e. "why does that woman wear a cloth over her head," etc), but they won't be fearful or an active dislike.

All I'm sayin' is that I can't imagine willingly feeding my kid on one type of bread, visiting one type of neighborhood, befriending one type of people, etc from infancy and not end up with some unwanted outcomes. I often think it's more about the adult's comfort zone than the child's. And that's why it's good to get to 'em used to difference (of all sorts, I'm not talking about race exclusively) when they're young and impressionable. Otherwise they do tend to grow up into xenophobic Americans, and FSM! do we have enough of those.
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Old 11-15-2006, 08:14 PM
 
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And when my (obviously not-"white") child goes to preschool and some little 3 or 4 year old gives her a weird look, should I assume he/she is racist and unhealthy? I mean, I know race is a touchy subject, but it is far too easy to read into things, and come out seeing what you want to see. The fact is, darker skinned people are, in many places in North America, unusual, and it is NOT unhealthy for a child to initially react with confusion, which MAY manifest as "dislike". Obviously, if that happens it is a learning/teaching opportunity (and a very important one at that), but I think it is crazy to assume there is something wrong with a child for having a reaction to something they have never encountered before. Everyone processes new things differently. And, yep, Sesame Street is a great primer.
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Old 11-15-2006, 08:35 PM - Thread Starter
 
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FroNuff: She already has playmates of color. In fact, at most of my parties (of my friends and their children) the only people who aren't of color are my family. Like I said, I grew up in a very diverse area . . .the first time I ever met a LOT of "white people" was college. Before that I knew very few. I was in the minority at my elementary school-- almost everyone else was Latino.

flyingspaghettimama: I will check out that book!

Ruthla, DD has seen plenty of shows and read plenty of books with a variety of children in them. I was a bilingual teacher and so I have a large stash of books in which Latino children are the central characters.

wildmonkeys, yes, I have thought about this . . .while it is worrisome, it isn't the same as though an adult said it. Not in terms of seriousness (because to me, this is serious), but I shouldn't view it through adult eyes . . .I'm trying to get to the root of how she sees things. As for the dolls, I think she only has one "white" doll. None with blonde hair (the one she has is a baby.)

GiggleBirds, the odd thing is that this boy is NOT the first boy she met who is not white. Like I said, she spent most of her life with a diverse group, and only now is it more white (though not all). Her school next year will be very diverse. I agree that it is not uncommon for a child to notice . . .one of my friend's daughters is in a wheelchair, and DD has had many questions, but she is just fascinated by her (she even roleplays wanting to BE here). However, she has never said anything negative. I don't think observations are a problem, but to not like something so boldly seems like a red flag.

captain optimism: I thought about that. I doubt anyone said anything (I think she'd tell me) but she is an astute observer . . .it may be something she has internalized (that she does not look like even her cousins) and therefore not something she is even conscious of. So, I think this may be part of it.

MelMel, yeah, I agree . . .and I am pretty anti-Disney . . .so we won't be watching that channel other than the Wiggles! (Actually, we are going no-TV for awhile.) Disney (heck, most of the media) makes people of color BE ONLY people of color . . .like that is all there is to them . . .just like it does with gay people. You rarely see a person on TV who lives their life AND is gay. It's always focusing on being gay, or being of color, or something else to point out, "See, you are different from the mainstream!"

MITB: I will check that thread out!

Also, I HAVE heard at least one mom (at DD's school) refer to Asian people as "Orientals." That is just something I am not used to . . .it is considered slightly offensive to say that in my circle of friends. That certainly does NOT qualify as racist, but IMO, it is a signal that people here are just not as used to diversity because they did not grow up with it.

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Old 11-16-2006, 02:13 AM
 
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I don't have a lot of advice, but I thihnk Ruthla's advice is good. Your kid is what, 4, almost 5? I'd be direct with ehr. I am very very direct around this kind of stuff with my 4 year old white kid. I started early with lots of positive comments about how there's all kinds of people in the world...nowadays we are working on gentle approaches to knowing about racism and challenging it. We just got this bookas a birthday gift:
http://www.amazon.com/Freedom-Summer.../dp/0689830165

and it's a really interesting conversation starter. I also have the "40 ways to raise a non racist child" book, and it's worth getting, and it's geared toward white people *and* people of color.

The thing I want to say, which doesn't help the OP at all, is that we need to be proactive about talking with kids about racism and other forms of discrimination. My understanding is that most kids of color begin dealing with it as early as 2 years old, while most white kids don't until something like this comes up. (I understand your kid is biracial though) And so before we as the parents have a chance to instill our anti-racist morals in our kids, they are learnign about racism, even if in subtle ways, at school, from tv, on the playground, etc. so, I think we should not wait for them to ltell us what they've learned/internalized; I think working to talk aobut it when they're toddlers, but in age appropriate ways. whch is hard because there aren't that many models for us to look to for that.
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Old 11-16-2006, 02:31 AM
 
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I disagree. A healthy child will react with curiousity, not dislike nor distrust.
I don't agree. My experience with my children and my experience teaching 6 years olds is that children's brains seem wired to generalize. For example, my dss decided that only boys play guitar because his dad and grandpa play guitar. He decided that girls don't drive trucks, because his dad and grandpa drive trucks. For some reason, making sense of the world for children seems to be generalizing from their experience. Rather than children being these openminded, wide-eyed little creatures, I've found them to be constantly coming up with crazy generalizations based on their limited experiences. As their first grade teacher, I was CONSTANTLY trying to undo their generalizations, "no, not ALL girls do that, no not ALL moms do that, no not ALL teachers," etc. I wonder if the OP's child disliked the child first, then generalized. Decided she didn't like all children his color, because she didn't like him.
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Old 11-16-2006, 04:09 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I wonder if the OP's child disliked the child first, then generalized. Decided she didn't like all children his color, because she didn't like him.
I have thought about this as well . . .for one, he is a boy. I don't think she disliked him for any other reason, but that is often enough reason for her. DD takes a long time to warm up to boys, and even then, she only tolerates them-- she never chooses to play with them over girls. So, had this child been a girl, DD may never have said anything about skin color.

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Old 11-16-2006, 04:29 AM
 
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Hmm. This thread is interesting to me. I think it is a rather serious thing- NOT as serious as if an adult had said it, of course, but something that needs to be dealt with nonetheless. I think the OP is doing a wonderful thing, asking advice & getting to the root of the problem.

I can see that maybe the child is reacting to a difference that she has not seen before, but to compare it to bread- yes, that is offensive. Even if you did not mean it to be. I agree with the poster who mentioned maybe comparing types of apples- two good, different things, rather that one good thing & one second rate thing...

And I agree with MitB saying a healthy child will react with curiousity, not disgust. Unfortunately, we do not live in a very racially diverse area, but Joe has had a few chances to play with kids who are not white... However, he has a really good friend (my best friend's dd) who has autism & developmental delays. Because he has been around her his whole life, he does not bat an eye when he meets a kid who is, as they say, "differently abled." He has been exposed to this his whole life & he is comfortable with it.

I see it as kind of the same thing... please someone correct me if I am wrong.

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Old 11-16-2006, 04:48 AM
 
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I see it as kind of the same thing... please someone correct me if I am wrong.

(I know you will! )
Oh, you're wrong.

In all the right ways.

Actually, I agree with you. Differences are differences. I just think everyone is different, but in various stages of denial about how different they might be.
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Old 11-16-2006, 05:26 AM
 
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This is a good one...

We had a scenario play out like this one, when I taught pre-school. The mom was beside herself, because her daughter was saying stuff like this in class in front of her class-mates... 2 of whom were African American, literally... (Twins, the fam had just immigrated from Etheopia); and the little girl says, "I won't sit next to them, they're brown; I don't like brown people, I only like white people; get away BROWNFACE!!" I was teacher assistant at the time and was so shocked I could barely maintain composure... Head teach admonished her in front of the other children that we don't name-call, and there was huge row about it later when we brought it mom...

I don't know how SHE dealt with it, at home...

I can only say that the way it is handled in our community is to share virtues with children... We teach Virtues Classes, openly instructing children in how to adopt more globally minded attitudes... patience, steadfastness, tolerance, acceptance, awareness, kindness, empathy... Ask her to imagine how it would hurt her feelings if someone didn't want to be her friend for no other reason than her hair color, or some such...

"We are flowers in God's garden, each of us different, and perfect, and beautiful, and if all the flowers were exactly the same it would not be such a wonderous garden." (u could substitute a less religious term... The Garden of the World... etc...)
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Old 11-16-2006, 05:40 AM
 
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I disagree. A healthy child will react with curiousity, not dislike nor distrust.
I dont' know, i just have to disagree with this statement. DD often doesn't like things just because they are new. I then discuss it with her and encourage her to try the new thing or whatever it is that she is unsure of, but definitely her initial response to things she has not encountered before is not always curiosity. I do not think that is a sign of an unhealthy child, but just a personality variance. I beleive it is how I handle that as a parent that will help grow her into a productive adult. It is my responsibility to help her try new things and such, but I dont' think it is abnormal for her to be aprehensive of the unknown.

To the OP -- you've received a lot of good advice. I definitely would keep an open dialogue about it! I'm also wondering, as someone else had mentioned, if someone has said something to her to make her start feeling/thinking these things about her own self.
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Old 11-16-2006, 06:02 AM
 
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"We are flowers in God's garden, each of us different, and perfect, and beautiful, and if all the flowers were exactly the same it would not be such a wonderous garden."
Wow, I really like this quote, thank you.

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I can see that maybe the child is reacting to a difference that she has not seen before, but to compare it to bread- yes, that is offensive. Even if you did not mean it to be.
As I said, I can see how that would come across offensive. Again, I totally did not mean it to be... I was sleep deprived and while looking for an example, this was the first thing that popped into my head. Please understand: the example being that children often get uncomfortable with situations they are not used to. That is all I meant. I was so focused on that particular reality that I sort of forgot the racial context, within which the bread analogy was not the greatest. I am very sorry to anyone I offended.

I guess I'm just very sensitive when I hear people assuming the worst of children. There is a lot of this around me in my social circle; misunderstanding of children and intolerance, which just tends to breed the behaviour that these authority figures are trying to curb. Put enough shame in a child and s/he may manifest some ugly habits and behaviours, as a result. I don't really think it's possible for a 4 year old to be RACIST, personally. It is still an age of assimilation and testing out the waters, and as a previous poster said, making and breaking generalizations. That said, if this tiny seed happens to flourish in the child's mind, that would be a pretty big issue. I don't know the OP or her daughter and I don't know how serious it is, as yet. Preventative measures are key, and there are many great suggestions on this thread. Anyway, sorry to have taken this thread off-track. I was just trying to say that it could just be an instinctive reaction based on discomfort just for the fact that it is a new situation, and could have any number of possible associations or reasons, non of which would denote racism. Could. But maybe not. Keep vigilant, but don't assume the worst of your daughter. Good luck!
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Old 11-16-2006, 06:46 AM
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I dont' know, i just have to disagree with this statement. DD often doesn't like things just because they are new.
Then I would say that something is wrong if a child is constantly reacting with dislike or distrust of every new thing. That is not a sign of a healthy child.
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Old 11-16-2006, 06:49 AM
 
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Maybe not ideal, but not necessarily unhealthy. And, may I ask, what do you mean by "wrong" and "not healthy"?
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Old 11-16-2006, 07:33 AM
 
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It's just a phase.
I know I was so confused when I transfered to an all white school in kindergarten. I ran into a few special kids that would ask me if I tasted like chocolate....and would take a lick.

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Maybe not the greatest example, but if a kid is raised on all white bread, the first time they encounter whole wheat, they will probably be grossed out, until they get used to it.
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Old 11-16-2006, 10:18 AM
 
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Mizelenius, I didn't mean to imply that you have no interaction with non-white people. From our interactions at the Knot (hi, it's Tia, btw ), I know that you're a mama who is progressive, open-minded and you probably have a variety of friends of different backgrounds. I'll be honest, though, my gut reaction was that your DD just isn't used to brown folks -- Asian folks, sure, but brown folks, maybe not so much. I'm wrong about that, thankfully. I don't have any advice to give because frankly, my emotions get too caught up in discussions like this to think as clearly as I'd like, but I do believe it must be hard for you to hear your DD say what she said. I'm not looking forward to the day if/when my DDs say something that is 'off'.

MITB, I wholeheartedly agree with you that healthy children typically respond to new situations with curiosity, not distrust and disdain. A child might choose to reject something/someone after their initial curiosity is piqued, but I don't think immediate distrust of something/someone new is a good sign, at all.

FWIW, I really like the tone of this website. You have to search around to find particular situations that speak to your own life, but overall, I love the idea of approaching the subject of race with children by not using food/flavor distinctions. People are so much more than vanilla/chocolate/wheat/white bread.
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