How to Respond to Kids Who Make Racist Remarks

If you’ve ever cringed in embarrassment because your child has made a racist remark, you understand the importance of lessons about tolerance. Some comments that come out of a child’s mouth may be the innocent ramblings of a child, while other comments may be very purposeful. Whatever the motivation, your response should be one that educates and properly guides your child in the matters of racism.

Stay calm and resist overreacting if you hear a racist remark from your child, advises Sasha Emmons, on The situation could be a misunderstanding on your part or a lack of understanding regarding appropriate interactions on your child’s part. Avoid assuming the worst about your child's intentions.

Ask questions to understand why your child said what he said. You may uncover simple curiosity or your child could even be repeating something negative he’s heard someone else say. Try asking, “Why did you say that about Beth’s skin color?”

Guide your child to understand the error of the remark, using the opportunity to educate and develop tolerance. For example, you might say, “Yes, Beth’s skin does look different from yours. That’s OK, though. The features that make someone look different and unique on the outside don’t have anything to do with what a person’s like on the inside.”

Explain how racist remarks can be hurtful to others so your child realizes that his words can hurt. You might say, “Everyone wants to feel liked and important. If you make comments about a person's skin color, hair or eyes, you could hurt their feelings.”

Talk about what’s similar and different in people with your child to build an awareness of others around her, suggests the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights website. It’s important to communicate openly about differences your child notices in other people to remove enigmas and unspoken questions. By speaking honestly and openly, your child gains the opportunity to ask questions and you then have the chance to provide positive answers that will lead to tolerance and acceptance.

Set a positive example for tolerance and empathy toward everyone. The more inclusive you lead your life, accepting and interacting with people of a variety of races and cultures, the more likely your children will embrace the same tolerant attitudes, advises professor Kristina R. Olson, with the Psychology Today website 1.