When my little girl first brought to my attention there is a little boy in her class that is sometimes mean to her, we set a challenge that involved her doing her best to like him regardless of whether or not he is tolerant of her. They are both 8 years old. My daughter and I agreed she would do her best to find things to like about him and to respond positively even if he says something negative. I, personally, wanted my daughter to practice responding to situations with this child – because I, “personally” didn’t want her to go through any kind of negative experience feeling that she has no voice or is unable to respond or stand up for herself. I would hate to think of her suffering in silence and even worse, for her to be actually suffering in silence in the absence of her family members. I knew the situation had to be handled as sensitively as possible but since this was a real-world-small-world issue, I felt it ‘safe’ enough to just let my little girl handle the problem herself – with my gentle guidance, of course. After all, my daughter, as she always insists but also did on this occasion, and that is – insist I did not tell her school what was happening. So, our deal on this issue was for my little girl to bring me updates every day as she came home from school. I was very firm that I needed compliance on her part, she needed to confess all issues, especially if she expected me to leave her school teachers out of the matter. I also explained to her that I needed a full report as she understood the situation. I wanted a play-by-play, followed by her thoughts on the matter. My little girl enthusiastically agreed. Then on Sports Day, she returned home from school with a report that this little boy had made a literal-remark. He’d said: “Your face is brown.” I asked her what she thought about that, and my daughter replied: “I think he is just being mean again.” I asked her whether she wanted us to continue to take the little boy’s comment as just another mean thing he says while we carry on with our ‘agreed’ handling of the matter, or would she like us to consider his comment in the context of a racist issue. I explained to my daughter that the situation needed particular clarification because we needed to pay special attention to delicately find out whether the little boy is mean to her because she is not the same colour as him. My daughter responded: “Do you mean he could be racist?” I was at first taken aback by the question, and I knew I had to be careful about how I responded, I’d hate to unfairly label a child – especially since this little boy may have specific learning difficulties in which case he might just blurt out things he sees, but for me I was particularly interested in the topic matter because my daughter had already identified an issue with this little boy, so I had to consider that the entire issue might indeed – be a racial one. So, to my child I responded:
“Well, yes – whether this little boy is racist is my concern – as your mother. I don’t want you to have to deal with racism and we don’t actually know that the little boy is being racist. Which is why at this point, I’d like to involve your teachers, so that they can keep a close eye on the little boy to find out if he is a racist or not, because if he is, then sadly, this means – there is something wrong with him.”
My daughter agreed to the teacher involvement, and I spoke with her teacher, and we agreed how the situation would be handled from hereupon. I am confident we can resolve the issue, and I informed my daughter’s teacher that I’d like her to create opportunities for my daughter and this little boy to work and play together. This is is the quickest way to spot a problem but it is also a good way for both children to get to know each other better. Handled any other way could lead to a missed opportunity, and a negative experience for both children, and that is what adults need to avoid at all costs when dealing with children and sensitive issues. In this situation, what began as mean comments may be all it ever was, and racism may not even be in the mix regardless of the topic of conversation being associated with Hate; having said this, I am going to keep a very close eye on the situation because whether it is Racism or that old devil…….Bullying, it is an ugly reality and in my opinion, it might begin and have cause to thrive in the home but it should be absolutely corrected inside the learning environment. I was saddened yesterday to hear about an atrocious act that happened in the United States, when a racist young man walked into a community church and gunned-down 9 members of the congregation; well, that sickness inside him started somewhere. The chances are the shooter went to school where he practiced his anti-social language and unhealthy conduct in the classroom, before he even took his evil to the street. In my opinion, the problem always comes back to Education or a lack thereof. And it is reasons like this why I wanted to write this article and touch upon my daughter’s on-going issue, since it has become a concern for me. My daughter and this little boy are just eight years old and innocent as can be, but there is still something wrong because whether this boy irritating my child is racist or not – for some reason or other, he’s being very mean.
Felicity Nyn, 2015, All Rights Reserved.