3yo noticing and commenting on race

(11 Posts)
coneyisland Wed 23-Apr-14 10:30:11

Background - DD has just turned 3. She's at that stage of doing a loud running commentary on everything and everybody she sees.

We live in Plymouth, and as anybody has ever been here may have noticed, it's not exactly the most ethnically diverse of places. I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say that 95% of the people DD sees on a daily basis are white.

She has recently started noticing that some people aren't white - I guess because it genuinely is a tiny minority here - and commenting. What she says is "that lady/man has got a chocolatey face".

Now although part of me thinks that's quite a cute and innocent description for her to come up with herself, I'm aware that it could be deemed offensive and people may not want their ethnicity commented on at all. It makes me cringe when she comes out with it on the bus when people are in earshot. I have said to her "we say black, people have different coloured skin" but she keeps on using the word chocolatey.

Should I even be worrying about this at 3yo? What do you tell your children, should I tell her not to use that word? And I'm also interested to know whether you would be offended if you're not white?

I've been through similar with my DD and DS. I've just told them that people can have different skin colours, just like people can have different hair colour and eye colour. Having a different skin colour to themselves, is no different to someone having a different hair colour to theirs. My DD (7) still refers to people having 'brown' skin, but I think that is because that is what the colour actually is (their skin isn't black!). I do worry about them accidentally offending black people with their curious comments though, and being white I often have no idea whether a black person would be offended or not!

SavoyCabbage Wed 23-Apr-14 11:10:52

Just talk about it in a natural way, like you would anything else. There is a chapter on this in the Nurture Shock book.

I'm white and my dds are mixed race. Not so long ago a boy is dd's class asked me why dd was a different colour to me. The teacher ushered him away and then came back to apologise to me. Like I didn't know or thought it was something to be ashamed of. Don't do that!

PirateJones Wed 23-Apr-14 12:01:53

Just explain it to her, some people have white skin, some have brown skin and Elmo has red skin. Just like people have different coloured hair, or eyes.

I doubt anyone would be offended at a 3 year old commenting on what they see.

SavoyCabbage Wed 23-Apr-14 13:43:01

Talking of elmo, there is a Sesame St book called 'red, blue. I like you' about skin colour. Well, fur.

Boudica1990 Wed 23-Apr-14 13:48:35

Aww bless, most non Caucasians will not take offence to curiosity of children.

DP is not white and once in a busy cafe a small child asked him why he was burnt, much to the mother's horror and blushing. DP laughed and said his mum left him in the sun too long hmm great tactic there dp....

But in short, just continue to explain the differences as you see fit. It won't last forever.

Parietal Wed 23-Apr-14 20:57:11
ThreeLannistersOneTargaryen Wed 23-Apr-14 21:11:09

Mine went through a brief stage of noticing people's race at a similar age, and also trying to categorise people's gender or comment on the appearance of anyone who looked different to them.

This phase is designed to make you feel mortified in public. "The brown lady stabbed my brother" after taking the baby for his MMR. "That man has a big tummy. Has he got two babies in his tummy like you have, Mummy?"
Even after I tried to educate them, they still managed to embarrass me. "Are you Afro-Caribbean?" to random bloke in Tesco. "Mummy, is that a man or a woman?" said in a stage whisper on the tube. blush

Thankfully this stage was very short-lived.

PirateJones Wed 23-Apr-14 21:16:38

Very American article that Parietal. I'm not sure "white parents" should approach it differently to “Black parents”.

Parietal Wed 23-Apr-14 21:32:48

yes, it is very american but I think the general point that race should not be a taboo topic is still valid.

coneyisland Thu 24-Apr-14 10:52:26

Thanks for the replies.

It's not so much talking about race with her, no problems explaining that people have different coloured skin etc

It's the "chocolatey face" comment she keeps coming out with - should I be impressing on her that the word is black or just letting her say it, is what I was asking really.

How important is it that a 3yo uses the "right" language

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