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I am not a parent yet, however, this is about "How I should behave with a 6-year-old who is suddenly very rude to me"

The story: I am from India and I am Dark, (you can check out my profile) and almost every relative of mine is very fair compared to me and all of my cousins even the small ones have said that to me that I am dark. One of my 6-year-old cousins had said that to me a couple of times before and I took it casually, as it is more of a curious question from him to me, like "brother, why are you darker than me?" (Translated in English)

However, recently (in last 45 days) he has somehow figured out that he can use the skin "color" as a tool/way to use it against some and make them feel bad about it. A couple of days back, there was a party at my place and he came to me said, "You are dark, gorilla-like. You are slightly dark but monkey like and your hair is grey, you're old." (In case you want to know, I am 28 and I have grey hair from the age of 21)

I was shocked when I heard his tone and the way he said it. It was amazing how he thought he could use that against me (I don't know where he could have caught that, maybe in school or maybe at home)

I was just quiet and I didn't speak a word to him the whole party and he still carried on saying things to me. (It was my way of saying it doesn't affect me. People have said much worse things to me)

So my question is: "How should I behave with a 6-year-old who is suddenly very rude to me" ?

PS: I did not get offended by him, I was shocked. I want to know what the correct way that I should behave with him so that he doesn't do that to others. I am old enough to not get offended by kids, like I said before people have said worse things.

Update: I met the cousin again yesterday and tried to observe him if he is saying anything like before. However he did not say thing rude but was quite playful with me and was hanging around me for a long time.

21

This is a difficult problem that a lot of people face. Children can be the meanest people you meet. Here's my opinion.

I would be bluntly honest with the child. I would tell him that the things he says aren't nice, and that they hurt your feelings. Sometimes children can shrug off an adult telling them just that they aren't being nice, because they hear that any time they do anything bad, such as not sharing. They don't really care at that point if they are being nice or not, but he may understand having his feelings hurt. I don't think ignoring it will help him. It may help you, by making him stop eventually, but if your goal is to help him, let him know that it hurts your feelings.

On the other side, let him know when he does something you do like. If he's ever being really positive and doing things you like, be sure to reward that by interacting with him more. I know that sounds like the alternative to that is ignoring him when he's being mean, but that doesn't work with all kids.

All you can do is be honest with him at this age. Hopefully, he's developed enough empathy for that to help. I hope it gets better. Good luck.

  • 1
    "Children can be the meanest people you meet." This old saw again! Like any other human, some children are mean. This contorted belief comes from children been honest and ignorant of societal mores. So when a child asks, "What are those marks on your face?" he is not being rude or mean to mention acne -- he's asking a question that we don't like. – WRX Apr 16 '17 at 14:42
  • If the kid is just 6 years old, it wouldn't be awfully difficult for you to divert on the topic and spend some time understanding his interests. If you hit upon one shared interest and develop on it, he will definitely become a good friend and will quickly forget everything that he did to you - knowingly or unknowingly. Be rest assured that he will tell all of his friends that you are his new best friend! – user1880957 Apr 16 '17 at 15:30
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    @Willow, the sentence you quoted doesn't contradict you ("Children can be the meanest people you meat" does not mean all children are). Furthermore, meanness or rudeness does not depend on intention, and ignorance of societal norms does not excuse it either. For example, if I come from a culture where it is not customary to tip waitresses, and I come to America and don't give a tip, I am still rude, even if I didn't intend to be. The same goes for children. That's the whole point of this question. – user19033 Apr 16 '17 at 18:53
13

Although I think that the particulars of his comment are problematic, a useful response depends on his motivation.

If he is trying to shame you based on his belief that your darker complexion is a sign of inferiority, I would suggest pointing out that all skin colors are equally beautiful. You might ask him to think about why that wouldn't be so, and what it means to be a person who can not appreciate beauty. Hopefully he will examine his own biases (and the biases of the people he is learning from), but at minimum you will signal that you can not shamed of your own skin.

Then again, people often say terrible things not because they believe them, but because of the reaction they expect to get. In other words, the child may have no particular bias against dark skin, but may have realized that people with dark skin are vulnerable to biases prevalent in society at large. His motivation is not to express bias, but simply to make you angry by using a new "weapon" that he has discovered.

If he is simply trying to anger you, is it because he is angry at you? If so, that is something that should be resolved, if possible. Or is it simply that he wants attention and knows that angering people is an easy means to get it? If that seems to be the case, you should ask him why he is making comments that will cause other people to think less of him.

Since this is a young child, I would reply with something such as:

"I like the color of my skin, why wouldn't I? And why would you say something to try to make me feel bad about it? Do you want to be friends with people who are mean?"

  • 1
    I dnt think he is angry with me as we share a good relationship. We are always playful. I like you reply ("I like the color of my skin, why wouldn't I? And why would you say something to try to make me feel bad about it? Do you want to be friends with people who are mean?") Thank you – PresleyDias Apr 15 '17 at 8:15
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Sorry to play devil's advocate here, but I don't think he is trying to insult you at all.

The boy is six years old. Kids of that age are at a really exciting time of their lives, recently started proper education and one of the things he will be encouraged to do at school is to be observant.

He has observed that you have different skin and hair and is probably quite proud that he has noticed (a couple of yeara ago he might not have noticed a difference like that). He is showing off his new found observation skills and does not yet have the social experience to understand that being ignored means stop.

Try sitting down with him and his parents (I assume your brother or sister) and explain in friendly and simple terms that he didn't do anything wrong but some people don't like being different so it's not nice to tell them things like that.

You definitely don't want to dent his confidence though, as this may leave him confused and wondering what else he does that might be insulting. "If I calculate this counting problem correctly, will my dad be insulted?". So you have to be extremely specific, simple and clear. I would also go so far as to use a praise sandwich in this case, the technique of congratulating them on something related that they did well, before and after the "chat" about what needs to change will soften the blow and encourage the child to think about changing his behaviour as a positive.

On a side note however, I'd recommend having a slightly thicker skin. Come on, a six year old made observational comments on your appearance, and you've said yourself that they were correct. I'm sure at age 28 you have more important things to be concerned with.

I am really glad you did the right thing and ask for advice though rather than simply punishing the child or continuing an awkard stand-off.

(see what I did there?)

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    (see what I did there?), ;) Thank you for the advice :) – PresleyDias Apr 15 '17 at 8:09
  • great first-hand example of a sandwitch :) – quetzalcoatl Apr 15 '17 at 11:03
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    Re: "Sorry to play devil's advocate here, but I don't think he is trying to insult you at all": I think you may have misunderstood the term devil's advocate. Do you sincerely believe that he's not trying to insult the OP? If so, then you probably mean "Sorry to disagree, but [...]". – ruakh Apr 16 '17 at 2:53
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    Right, he compared the skin colours of two animals (a human and an ape) and made a connection, while also linking grey hair to age. I would say he is not wrong at all, but the way he worded it could have been a lot better. Explain that grey does not necessarily mean old and that humans do not like to be compared to apes very much, as that can be thought of as an insult. – Stephan Bijzitter Apr 16 '17 at 22:00
3

He is a child so, you should be kind to him.You should try to convince him that this is wrong or you should talk his parents about his behavior so that they can ensure that their child does not do this again.

3

I would just turn the comment around on him, saying something like, "I have grey hair because I'm old enough to have learned a lot. And if you would get out in the sun more, you'd be able to have nice dark skin like mine, too!" That shows that you're comfortable with your differences, helping him understand that differences do not imply superiority or inferiority.

If you think he was purposefully being rude, you could also let his parents know about the incident.

3

In my opinion this child is either trying to be hurtful, or stating something he thinks, or repeating something he's heard.

This is a learning opportunity.

If this happened to me, I'd tell the parents that I wanted to speak to the child because he said something hurtful and I'd like to see if I could help him to understand. If they refused permission, I'd tell them every detail and leave it at that.

If I was granted permission to speak, I get the two of us a drink and sit down and ask him if he knew that he had hurt my feelings? This question should not be a challenge and would be said without anger, just a straightforward, kindly-worded inquiry. If he doesn't know, then I'd explain it. 10 books on skin colour for children. This is a list of English books, but I am sure these sort of stories are available in most languages.

If he says, "That's what so-and-so said." Then explain why repeating it wasn't a good idea, especially if he did not understand it, and why it was unkind and untrue.

If he says he knew, then ask him why he thinks that way? You could have examples of people or animals that look different but that everyone still admires. It will not be an easy process to have him truly know that age/race/gender/ability, or education does not make a person better or worse -- just different. He might not think a maintenance worker is important until he understands that life without that person would be much more difficult and that everyone has a contribution to make, and that any job done well and honestly is a good job and that the person is good, too.

I'd also (not suggest) be open to him telling you that someone lighter in skin tone than him said something to him about his skin. Explain that the reason we still have biases today is because some of us have a basic human need and way of thinking that humans need to work at being mature enough to not judge others by skin colour or age and so on. Explain that it is a sign of intelligence to not act on feelings of unearned bias.

-2

He's probably seen someone harassed and a group of people laughing, and thought "I want to be funny!".

While it's not always appropriate to treat children the way they treat you, I think it's entirely appropriate to treat him, literally, as you're being treated in this case. That is, take a feature of his and remark upon it.

I'd probably laugh to disarm the tension (which probably wasn't only felt by you), then tell him he's "very small, very much like a garden gnome but a bit bigger".

protected by Community Apr 17 '17 at 3:26

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