How to Raise Kids Who Aren’t Assholes: Science-Based Strategies for Better Parenting from Tots to Teens by Melinda Wenner Moyer

7. “Her Skin Looks Dirty.” How to Raise Kids Who Aren’t Racist

  • Kids notice differences in skin color. Many parents avoid talking about race as they hope their kids will be color-blind and not be racist. Studies show that many kids who never discuss race with their parents will develop racial biases on their own. When skin color comes up, use it as an opportunity to explain why people have different skin colors. Like the author, having only white friends will send a message about skin preference that your kids are likely to pick up on. Most people will select people who look like themselves as friends and employees they hire.
  • Kids raised in all-white neighborhoods who attend all-white schools are more likely to be prejudiced against people of color. Somehow you should do what you can to expose your kids to positive non-whites via books and media. You can also take them to places with diverse populations. You might find a summer camp with a diverse population. (Doug: I met my first black friends at summer camp, and it made a big difference for me. As a principal, I also hired as many black teachers and support staff as possible. I would not, as the author suggests, get involved with Black Lives Matter due to reports of corruption and their view of the nuclear family or take your kids to protests that the media tells us are “mostly peaceful.” See if you can attend a black church on occasion instead, as I did with my daughter.) Celebrate diversity and make sure your kids learn about discrimination that blacks are more likely to face.

Part II Strategies
8. “You Can’t Make Me!” Shaping Behavior and Values

  • The research identifies four parenting styles. The style recommended is called “authoritative.” It features rules and limits that parents can explain and sometimes negotiate. When a child breaks a rule, the parent acknowledges the child’s feelings and focuses on the behavior rather than indicating the child is bad. Explain how their behavior affects others or could cause harm or hurt feelings.
  • If punishment is used, it’s after a discussion and a repeat offense. Time out’s are fine, but they need to involve lack of attention and other stimulation. You can also deny access to other activities or objects. It’s important that you stay calm yourself, so think about what triggers your anger and do your best to control it. If you do lose control, it’s ok to apologize.

9. “I Hate My Brother.” Helping Siblings Get Along

  • Sibling conflict is normal (Doug: And from what I’ve seen more frequent the closer they are in age.) Don’t feel bad if you only have one, like me. Melinda assures us that it’s ok. Look at fights as opportunities to learn better conflict management skills. Start with reminding each child that their sibling(s) have feelings too and that they should try to figure out what they are. They should also be encouraged to share their feelings.
  • Be careful about comparing kids in any way. Avoid the he’s this and she’s that kind of compliments. (Doug: I suggest praising them privately when possible.) You should try to treat them equally, but they are unlikely to have the same needs. Sharing is often an issue. If children have their own possessions, let them decide when and if they wish to share. It’s important not to take sides. Be a mediator, not an arbitrator. You won’t always know who is right anyway. Encourage kids to stop, think, and talk as part of conflict resolution.
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