“I don’t have a single American friend”: Tips for How Talk to Your Child about Exclusionary Behavior (Tips 3 & 4)

April 19th, 2013 | Categories: Uncategorized

It was a powerful moment when I learned today that one of the Boston suspects had said the words “I don’t have a single American friend.”

According to The Independent, “The photos reveal that, despite living in the US for more than five years, he had trouble assimilating, and claimed not to have “a single American friend” and didn’t understand ‘them’.”

It was powerful because just 48 hours ago I had given a talk on exclusionary behavior and how consequential it could be. I elaborate on my recommendations from this talk in a series started yesterday on Tips for How to Talk to Your Child about Exclusionary Behavior. Considering the statement from the now deceased Tamerlan Tsarnaev, today’s two tips are particularly poignant. Imagine if people had pursued discussion further when he made this comment.

Tip 3: Don’t dismiss your child’s reluctant behavior or concerns as unimportant by saying things like s/he had a bad day or didn’t eat/sleep well.

Why? Adults have learned to compartmentalize (e.g., put something on the backburner to focus on something else) but children are learning to do this. By being dismissive adults teach children that these issues are unimportant and not worthy of talking about. At the extreme adults teach children that it is unreasonable or overreacting to be upset about this topic or that it is even their fault because the child had a ‘bad day,’ ‘didn’t sleep well,’ or ‘didn’t eat well.’ This shifts the focus to whether they want to be in your ingroup (e.g., ‘yes, I need a nap’) or outgroup (e.g., ‘I do not need a nap!’). Neither focuses on the child’s reasons for why s/he is reluctant or expressing concern.

Tip 4: Open the door to conversations by asking questions like has anyone been nice to them today/this week? Has anyone been not nice today/this week?

Why? Your child may not think to tell you about how s/he is being treated by others. Ingroup members assume familiarity with each other and sometimes forget to talk about things that don’t seem too important or that they take for granted as ‘normal.’

Monday, the series continues with the next two tips.

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