When it comes to educating children, I am a firm believer that the opportunity to learn takes place more often in the absence of a formal curriculum.
It is the everyday life experiences that present these opportunities for parents to teach children good values and to develop them to become moral, socially conscious and responsible adults.
My husband and I are open-minded and enjoy relationships with a diverse and unique group of friends. Race and ethnicity is never a criterion for friendships.
So imagine our surprise when one of two signs on our son’s door read, “Do not enter unless you are Tailor! or brown and knock!”
Unbeknownst to us, before leaving for school, he’d taped the signs on his bedroom door. No one else in the house has a do not enter signs on their door.
We were okay with the first sign, but it was the second sign we took issue with. Not wanting to jump to conclusions, we decided to get clarification from him after school.
When I asked our son about the sign referring to “brown” people, he did not speak. I made sure to ask in a non-confrontational or threatening way because I really wanted to determine exactly what he was thinking when he wrote the sign. The moment I questioned him, I think he sensed something wasn’t right about his actions.
I reassured him that it was okay to speak his mind. So he did.
“Mom, I’ve only had brown people in my room. I’ve never had anyone white in my room.”
That was a wow for me! I thought about it and told him that wasn’t true and reminded him of another friend that visits occasionally. He said, “Oh yeah! I forgot about him.” Our conversation continued as I questioned him about how he’d feel if he went to a friend’s house and the friend had a sign posted on their door that stated, “Do not enter unless you are white.” He commented that he would be angry. I asked why and said that it wouldn’t be nice or fair. I talked to him about the importance of treating people the way that he wants others to treat him.
The conversation continued into a talk about treating everyone the same, regardless of their skin color, religion, etc…
My son’s intentions were not malice in writing the sign. It was an innocent act based on his perceptions and realities that occur on a daily basis around him. With the exception of the summer and holidays, most of the school aged visitors to his room, look like him; they are brown and are usually family members.
When situations like this occur, it is critical that we avoid laughing it off with the notion that kids will be kids. It’s vital that we teach our children a better way to think and to view others. Ignoring these types of incidents gradually and informally teach our children to develop racists and bigotry attitudes toward others. It may seem cute when they are young (which I don’t think it is), but when we’re confronted by adults with negative, discriminatory, and racists attitudes most are appalled and highly offended.
It’s scary with our kids, because when they’re younger, we control their environment and what they are exposed to. However, once they reach high school and sometimes before, their friends often have a greater influence over them their own parents the peer pressure can be intense. Once can deny this if they want, but it is true.
How do we counteract this tragic trend? I say by talking to our children every day and trying not to judge or react to their shocking comments, questions or opinions. That’s not always easy, but if we stay conscious of this fact, it can help.
Our son knows that both mom and dad question him every single day about school. Sometimes his response is, “fine.” But he can expect us to probe more into his day. In turn, he asks about our work day. I try to remember what I expect of him and give details about my day… even when I really want to say, “Fine.”
My last thought on this post is that his action is another excellent reminder that the unspoken, our actions, are even more powerful than what we say… Stay conscious!