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"Mummy, I think I may be a racist." Followed by wails and sobs ... WTF???

(33 Posts)
ghosty Tue 04-Sep-07 23:11:10

OMFG ...
DS (8 in November) is going through a seriously weird stage right now and I need some help/support/advice ... it is doing my head in.
He came home from school the other day, he is often grumpy and hungry after school and if I don't 'play' it right we often end up with a melt down. So he had a meltdown about something (can't remember what started it) and when we were sitting having a cuddle and a 'calm down' he said the "I think I may be a racist" comment.
So the conversation went like this (after my heart fell like a stone)
Me: Why do you think that?
Him: Well, I don't like XXX as much as the other children in our group
Me: Why don't you like him?
Him: Because he is mean and tells me I am no good at drawing
Me: OK (thinking hard). What about YYY?
Him: What about him?
Me: Do you like him?
Him: Yeah, he's cool, he's funny ... he makes me laugh. And he's good at soccer.
Me: So you can't be a racist can you?
Him: Can't I?
Me: No ...
Him: How come?
Me: Well a racist is someone who doesn't like someone PURELY because of the colour of their skin or PURELY because of the country/part of the world they come from. No other reason.
Him: Yeah ...
Me: So, XXX and YYY's mummies and daddies come from the same place. You like one and not the other ... so it can't be because of the colour of XXX's skin can it? You said you liked YYY because he is funny and you don't like XXX because he is mean.
Him: Oooooooooooooooooooohhhhhh
Me: So does that mean you are a racist?
Him: No, I guess not ...
Followed by big relief on his part and smiles and 'all's well with the world' ...
I was trying to explain to him that you like or dislike people according to how they treat you and how they behave. I also wanted to impress upon him that he didn't need to go the OTHER way and try hard to LIKE XXX just because of the colour of his skin - because that, in a way, isn't good either is it?

I had a fucking headache after this ...

Did I say the right thing? If I didn't, what should I have said?

He is such a thinker and a worrier ... we have conversations like this all the time and I am constantly on my toes thinking of how to answer these things correctly so that he grows into decent human being.

Last night we had a similar situation which started with many tears and "Mummy, I think I may be a Bully" ....

Am finding parenting a big burden right now ... sad

Thanks for reading this far ... feel free to tell me what you think ...

LambethLil Tue 04-Sep-07 23:16:00

It sounds as if you handeled it really well- exhausting dealing with lo's meltdowns isn't it?

dinny Tue 04-Sep-07 23:16:31

oh, Ghosty, am no use in offering any advice as dd is 5 BUT she is a total worrier and can totally envisage this kind of situation and have NO constructive advice except to say bear with it and it will pass - reassure him you love him and always will, however confusing and hostile his world is. He will probably grow up to be some amazing man. xxxx

soapbox Tue 04-Sep-07 23:17:38

Sounds a bit nightmarish - many sympathies!

How is he generally atm? This sounds a bit to me like he doesn't like himself very much and is trying on the various 'bad' labels - bully, racist etc - until he finds one that explains why is is 'bad'.

I think lots of attention and self-esteem building is probably needed

I think it is very wise to logically decompose his assertions about himself - but at the same time probably worth widening it out so that you are not just knocking each specific 'bad' label off the list, but opening up a more general discussion about the positive things about him.

thelittleElf Tue 04-Sep-07 23:18:45

Well it sounds to me like you are doing a fantastic job! What a lucky little boy smile

LittleBella Tue 04-Sep-07 23:18:49

I think you dealt with it exactly right.

Exemplary, in fact. smile

Twinklemegan Tue 04-Sep-07 23:20:19

Aww, bless your DS. He sounds a very thoughtful little boy.

ghosty Tue 04-Sep-07 23:26:28

Oh, thank you everyone ... thankyou, your nice comments mean alot.
Soapie ... yes, his self esteem is low and it worries me as to why ... we (me more than DH) never put him down or tell him he is bad or naughty when he does naughty things - we have always done the "What you did was naughty/bad/silly/thoughtless" thing ...
I tell him I love him and am proud of him EVERY DAY and have done since ever.
Last night, with the 'bully' thing, DH got a bit impatient and said to me that DS was 'attention seeking' and should 'get a grip' and I shouldn't 'pander to him' ...
I have always thought (even before kids, when I was a teacher) that children 'attention seek' because they are craving attention. That there is a reason for it and it needs to be dealt with. DH is more of a 'let them get on with it' old school parent.

kindersurprise Tue 04-Sep-07 23:36:35

Am in awe that you thought of what to say and reassured him so well. I am dreading conversations like this, DD asked recently if it hurts when you die. I never know what to say.

You encouraged him to think about it and come to the answer himself instead of saying "of course not, don't be silly".

Well done!

soapbox Tue 04-Sep-07 23:43:34

Ghosty - you really sound like you are doing all the right things. DD had a bad spell of the downers on herself a couple of years ago and it was such torture to try and turn things around. It is about the only time that I have ever bought parenting books and did so in a blind panic!

I did find some useful books on building self esteem in children- one or two with some ideas of little games you could play with them etc etc. I can't recall exactly what the messages were but I do remember that it was less about what you say to the child directly, than about how you value and respon to their input into family decisions and things they do for the family and friends. I think along the lines of unconditional love is all well and good (and as parents we really understand what it means) but sometimes children want to know that you love them because they are good and because they are likable and behave well, rather than just because you are their parents and parents always love their children even if they are horridgrin

madamez Wed 05-Sep-07 00:10:50

Hey you handled it really well. ANd your DS sounds like a lovely little boy, thoughtful and sensitive ( though I appreciate it is probably quite tiring dealing with him sometimes). But you are also armouring him against bigotry and enabling him to see it as silly and illogical should he encounter it in other people. Good for you.

ghosty Wed 05-Sep-07 00:21:20

What you are saying is really hitting home to me soapbox - thank you, this is what I needed ...
How do you build up self esteem when you are telling your child every day that what they do and how they are is marvellous.
DS is so much like me - which is some ways is a good thing (I like to think he will grow up to be a fab sensitive man) but in other ways it worries me greatly ...
My parents were definitely of the 'unconditional love' school of parenting. They were, and still are, my ROCK. No matter what I have done with my life, my constant has always been that my parents think I am the best thing since sliced bread (along with my 3 siblings of course) ...
BUT I think, as a result, I am a floater ... I have never really set my mind to anything and achieved a great deal ... I have never had to prove myself. I struggle with that and wish, in a way, that I had more to work for. I also, like DS, have always questioned myself, why am I like the way I am? I find it hard to know what the right way is, I question it all the time, I worry what others may think of me. I have worked hard in the last 3 years to work on my self development so that I can prove to myself that I am doing the right thing by me, by my family, by the world.
My DH, on the other hand, had parents that made him work for their love and affection. It was conditional all the way (to the point that he was kicked out of home as a teenager for normal teenage stuff, not awful stuff and told he had let them down blah blah).
As a result of that my DH needs no outside approval of his actions. He has had to look to himself for approval, he is very at one with himself about what his direction is in life and how he is as a person ... because he has had to dig deep within himself to find approval.

Am I rambling? I expect I am ... sorry ...

DS said yesterday that he wished I could go to school with him every day to watch over him to make sure he was doing everything right sad

I told him that that wouldn't help him at all and that he needed to make mistakes along the way to find the right way ... and that part of growing up was learning how to do things right and recognising what is wrong.

I am so worried that I have made him into an utter fruitcake. sad

DCsnatchsunhill Wed 05-Sep-07 03:26:55

Oh Ghosty. I have a VERY sensitive little boys also, someone who will never be able to take a throwaway comment as just that - disposable. He will worry and worry, and he's not five yet.
We found him in his wardrobe yesterday telling Grandma all about it (on the phone) as he feels that his feelings are so deep and can't be heard...he'd protected himself with layers of walls.
So I know exactly where you are coming from.

What I have tried to do is lie on his bed with him every night, just to snuggle and chat. He's started to tell me more and more about his "worries" and they are things that noone would ever dream a five year old could be worrying about. His biggest worry at the moment is people smoking - it's really affecting him (me and DH don't smoke).

I'm rambling, but I suppose what I'm trying to say is that you need to simply be there to rationalise, explain and comfort your DS. In my work I see parents every day who don't know how to communicate with their children - YOU DO!!!!!! And that's half the battle won.

Take care sweetie x

ghosty Wed 05-Sep-07 04:23:57

Oh DC ... thank you smile
Your DS sounds so like mine ... he will do things like come to me in tears because he has been remembering the time he sat on the cat and nearly hurt her (ages ago) ... or how he had an argument with his best friend at school over the computer and he put his hands over her eyes so she couldn't see the screen anymore ("I am a bully!") ...
It does my head in.
The biggest problem is probably me. I often go through stages of beating myself up over stuff concerned with him (failure to bond with him at birth, PND, blah blah) and wondering if it is all my fault that he is so sensitive and what if he actually heard and remembers me whispering, "I don't think I love our baby" to his dad when he was a week old.
Fuck. Am upset now. Poor bloody kid having an emotional wreck like me for a mother.
And what makes it worse is that I don't have any of these issues with DD. She is such a cruisy child and I am such a relaxed mother with her. I don't worry if she has tantrums or throws things, I take it in my stride. I don't worry about deeper issues if she says, "I am LEAVING!" grin when I say she can't have an ice cream or something, in fact, I smile and let her get on with it ... she is 3 and just gets on with being 3.

As it happens, I found out that Steven Biddulph is talking about Happy Children nearby in a couple of weeks. Should I go do you think? Or will that make me feel worse?

welliemum Wed 05-Sep-07 04:50:39

Well, I think he sounds lovely even though he's a worry to you now, and your future DIL is going to be a happy woman smile

Mine are too young, but thinking of myself as a young child, I had very loving and positive parents but still was quite insecure. I think it's just basic personality, how you're born.

What stopped me being insecure was learning how to do things, eg music. Thinking about whether you're a good person is very subjective and hard to get a grip on as an adult - let alone a child - but learning how to do something you couldn't do before is a solid achievement you can point to, and it doesn't depend on what other people think iyswim.

It gives you that confidence for the future, that you can be rubbish at something and then learn how to do it and be OK.

Anyway, that's how it worked for me - forgive the ramble!

ghosty Wed 05-Sep-07 04:59:39

Welliemum, you know I was thinking that maybe I should get him to learn an instrument or something ... a way to express himself that doesn't involve thinking so deeply about stuff ... so he can use his concentration on learning how to do it rather than all this navel gazing he tends to do.
He has a big problem 'winding down' ... his mind is constantly moving. He has told me he wishes he could get his thoughts to slow down a bit.
Most people have toddlers who run around all over the place and have to run after them all the time. DS never did that. He used to stick close to me all the time but he was always talking, observing, noticing stuff. Now I feel I am running around after his thoughts all the time like most people run after a toddler. I want to help him 'still his mind' a bit. Give him a bit of a break from all these pesky thoughts.

welliemum Wed 05-Sep-07 05:11:09

Ghosty, IME both music and drawing are brilliant for that. I've heard a theory that it's because they use the right side of the brain rather than the left.

I think that's a simplistic explanation and the brain is much more complicated than that really, but playing the violin or drawing always felt to me like a completely different way of thinking. I would lose all track of time and be very focused yet very relaxed - probably similar to what people experience when they meditate.

Definitely worth a try for your DS, I'd say.

arfishy Wed 05-Sep-07 05:20:02

I think you handled it brilliantly ghosty.

Your DS sounds very much like my DSS. He was always a bit of a worrier but since learning the guitar he has really come on (from therapy for his worries/OCD in his early teens to a hugely confident, popular boy).

He's now a rock god and has loads of confidence and is going to Uni to study music. The change in him is incredible.

ghosty Wed 05-Sep-07 05:20:06

<<nodding vigorously>>
Yes yes welliemum ...
did you learn to play the violin as your first instrument or did you learn to play the piano first?
I am convinced that DS needs some kind of let out. He LOVES sport and plays a huge amount of soccer which keeps him physically fit and active and (more importantly) knackered at the end of the day but he needs some kind of Brain Exercise to knacker that bit of him out ...
He has never been that keen on drawing because he gets pissed off if it doesn't look like he thinks it should look like - as a toddler he refused to draw because he couldn't get his hands to draw the car he saw in his head. But he has become better as he has got older as his motor skills have improved. He is actually pretty good now but he doesn't see it.
With the violin, how long is it before the 'strangled cat' sound turns into music grin

ghosty Wed 05-Sep-07 05:22:39

DS would LOVE to be a rock god. He loves music. He hated nursery rhymes and kiddies music but when he was 5 he discovered Cold Play and now loves 'cool' music: he got the U2 greatest hits cd for his birthday last year and currently LOVES Snow Patrol.

arfishy Wed 05-Sep-07 05:31:54

DD is starting violin soon btw (she's nearly 5).

welliemum Wed 05-Sep-07 05:32:11

I'm not sure how to break this to you Ghosty, but the "strangled cat" thing usually lasts at least a year... I used to get notes pushed under my door from my sisters, saying "if you value your life, SHUT UP" blush

I did piano first but I don't think you have to. There's a whole deal about choosing the right instrument for a child which the music folk on MN will know all about - with luck, your DS might suit something soothing and tinkly instead .... grin

DCsnatchsunhill Wed 05-Sep-07 05:39:06

Hmmm Steve Biddulph.....
Now I would normally think "How brilliant, what a good way to go and learn more about raising happy children" BUT now I'm not sure.
I am currently doing a parenting course for one whole day every week, as part of work. And it drives me insane.
Instead of feeling encouraged by all of the handy parenting tips, I just come away feeling like the crappest mum in the world. The stuff they are spouting at me is sooo text book, but they don't know anything about my home, my environment, how I'm feeling at that moment when I'm about to discipline my child...and I sit there and think "That wouldn't work for me because of x, y and z".

So, Steve Biddulph would certainly be a good way of learning as long as you don't go expecting all the answers. Does that make sense? Perhaps if you went with an open mind, with DS and DD in mind even, and picked out the relevent bits? Because, as wonderful as Steve Biddulph is, when you're feeling as confused as you are right now, it might make you feel even more anxious.
Come to my parenting class with me and we'll bash our heads against the table in harmony smile

kindersurprise Wed 05-Sep-07 08:32:13

I think the idea of music lessons sounds great. Have you heard of the Suzuki method? I think that might be a good thing for your DS as it works on building up self-confidence too. I have no personal experience of it, but have heard that it is very good. Perhaps someone here on MN can tell you more about it.

ghosty Wed 05-Sep-07 09:29:13

Have decided to have a heart to heart with DH about music lessons ... we always said we would do piano lessons but at the moment DH is thinking about cost so that is why we put it on the back burner for a while. But I think DS is at the right age for it and he will love it I am sure.
Perhaps if I persuade DH to come with me to the Steven Biddulph talk too ... he normally steers clear of stuff like that ... but if we went together we could talk about it afterwards and come up with a better plan together maybe (rather than me feeling that I am doing all the 'feelings stuff).

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