Over the last couple of weeks, M has had some highs…and some lows. In addition to a very successful camping trip with Cub Scouts, he defended a friend of his against another child who used a racial insult. It started off as a quasi-friendly snowball fight at daycare, but when one of the kids got beaned by an ice-ball, he shouted a racial epithet at M’s friend. M yelled back, “you can’t talk to my friend that way.”
This is what you want your child to do in these sorts of situations – stand up and let others know their behaviour isn’t acceptable. We have talked to M a fair amount over the last few years about accepting other people and not judging someone on the basis of their nationality or skin colour – it was reassuring to know we weren’t just spitting in the wind.
However, it turns out that M may not have been listening quite as carefully as we had hoped. This week, also at daycare, M used a racial insult while arguing with a group of boys. These boys had been his friends, although in the way of 10-year old boys, there has been a fair amount of friction – at one point during a typical week, one or another is not talking to someone else. M seemed to be the lightening rod, not surprising, since he’s probably the most volatile in terms of behaviour. But until this week, they had always managed to work out their differences.
The daycare takes racially insulting another child very seriously. His dad had to go in and talk to the program convener – while the daycare recognizes M has made significant progress over tha last couple of years, even over the last couple of months, this type of behaviour isn’t acceptable. As it turned out, his language has been deteriorating for a couple of weeks and parents were starting to complain.
Bad language isn’t tolerated at our house. In fact, if there is anyone who has a potty mouth, it is me. I have had to clean up my language, and substitute PG-rated expressions for my usual curse words. My current favourite is “jinxies” – it comes from Scooby Do, which is a source of great amusement for my husband.
I have 2 younger brothers and a raft of male cousins – I know 10-year old boys like to let loose with the occasional F-bomb. Because M gets sent to his room when he starts tossing them around at home, an F-bomb is usually an indication that he is really agitated. Talking like this at daycare was a signal his anxiety was ratcheting up.
Turns out his friends have been excluding him from games and other activities for the last couple of weeks. M said they might have still been mad that he had chased a couple of them with a hockey stick the week before. He said they “should have been over it by now.” Unrealistic thinking on his part, but at least he figured out that their behaviour was related to his. This in itself is progress for M who tends to blame other people and slide away from accepting responsiblity for his actions.
But he had to own this one. The other boys are understandably very upset with him. I was very upset with him – “but I was mad, Mommy.” I told him in no uncertain terms that didn’t matter. When another child insulted his friend, he knew this was wrong – never mind that M seemed more distressed that the child had mistaken his friend for Chinese, when he is really Korean. As I reminded him, that child was mad too and it didn’t make it any more acceptable.
M has apologized to all the children he insulted. One of them is still upset and not talking to him. I have suggested to M that the consequences of his actions may be that these boys won’t want to hang around with him anymore. They may not be able to get over it. Quite frankly, I would be surprised it they could.
In the end, something positive may come out of this. The child M defended seems to want to hang around with him more and asked to get together for a playdate. We have suggested to M on numerous occasions that he needs to expand his social circle and hang out with other groups of kids at daycare. By closing one door, M may be forced to open another. And that’s not such a bad thing.