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Special for International Child Protection Month: Click for September's WEEKLY Schedule of Turning Problems into Practices Coaching Conference Calls. Join to discuss your questions on child safety!Our free “Turning Problems into Practices” coaching conference call last month with Kidpower’s executive director and founder, Irene van der Zande, about “Dealing with and Protecting Young People from Prejudice,” touched on a broad range of situations and issues! Thank you to all of the participants!

Before we get to the details about that call I want to invite you to join us for one or more calls in September! In honor of International Child Protection Month, we are offering FOUR phone calls this month to address caller questions on child safety. Please visit our new “Turning Problems into Practices” Coaching Call webpage to view the schedule and register for any of these calls.

The Protecting Young People from Prejudice Call addressed callers’ questions about:

  • How to cope when you are the target of prejudice, and
  • How to reduce anxiety in situations where people are different and stop harmful actions that are based on prejudice.

Prejudice is often the cause of a lot of bullying, abuse, harassment, and other violence.

At Kidpower, we believe that it’s imperative to learn and teach personal safety skills for dealing with the consequences of prejudice you may have experienced – and protecting young people from prejudice.

You can listen to the recording of the call below and we’ve also prepared a summary transcript with links to the additional resources that were recommended on the call.

The caller questions addressed live on the call included:

  • In a new school, how to help our children, ages 9-11, who are experiencing prejudiced questions and comments from both fellow students and teachers?
  • How to help my 4-year-old who was told she couldn’t play by another preschooler because of the color of her skin?
  • How to help my high-school students with social aggression and unconscious bias who are shunning a student who is different from them. I have worked with the student who is being shunned, but it’s hard to know what to do to help the students who are doing this – see their own behavior and work to change it.
  • How do I handle the prejudice coming from teachers toward a younger sibling based on their [bad] experience of the older child?
  • How can we teach children that might have to deal with raced based aggression on a daily basis to cope with things that they come in contact with?

Whether you participated on the call or not – we hope this material provides you with concrete actions and skills you can take back to your own life and the lives of your loved ones to help deal with and prevent prejudice.

If this approach is valuable to you, please also consider attending a Kidpower’s Skills for Child Protection Advocates 3-day Training Institute  or applying to attend the January 2016 Kidpower Core Program and Instructor Training! These calls are an excellent preview of how Irene trains Kidpower instructors to use the “Turning Problems into Practices” approach to apply Kidpower skills and strategies to real-life challenges. The training is for individuals (professionals, parents and volunteers) who are committed to protecting and empowering the young people in their lives and organizations. Learning to use Kidpower’s intervention, advocacy and skill-building practices helps you help kids grow confident and capable of taking charge of their own well-being.

“Turning Problems into Practices” Coaching Call with Kidpower’s Founder Irene van der Zande. July 1, 2015  — Call Topic: Protecting Young People from Prejudice (62 mins)

Introduction: This call will discuss how to address bias and shunning/rejection kids face including hostility due to race/cultural differences.

Goal: We will discuss what is the language and skills to use when there is internalized prejudice and how we can help kids protect and develop self-esteem and resilience when they face prejudice from friends or adults. We will also address some safety techniques to help kids protect themselves from thoughtless, hurtful comments by other kids and adults.

Article references:

Question 1 — My family moved recently and my 9 and 11 year olds are exposed to new concepts of stereotypes. How do I address certain stereotypes without affecting my children’s self-esteem? We have had lots of talks about social perceptions, but I am not sure how much they can really understand and comprehend the topic.

Solution discussion: – Kids tend to be more literal than adults do, so what we can do is give them specifics that they can develop an understanding of the topic.

For example, we can begin to address the topic by saying to the child, “Sometimes people have unfair beliefs because of peoples differences and we all do it in one way or another because we are uncomfortable or we think we know how someone is based on how they look or talk then that can sometimes cause people to decide that that person is not as important and that is really unfair.”

  • Then, you can go into the specifics with a story. One time at a school, one boy said to another boy, “you run like a girl.” So Irene says to the boy who said it, “I take it that is not a compliment.” And the boy agreed it wasn’t. Then with the help of the teacher, we came up with lots of examples of women athletes and explained that labeling someone in some way they are different in a way was hurtful or not a compliment is unkind and unfair and a form a prejudice. Both children in that moment can learn and change the behavior in a way that is educational.

Example: One of my son’s friends asked him if his parents were gardeners or a nanny because of our race and culture. My son’s response was, “no, that is not what my parents do” and he did not understand why his friend would even ask the question. In addition to this, the teacher brought up the topic in a conference openly stating that my son is a minority in the school and this was confusing to him.

  • One way to address this is to educate the students with the help of the school if they will support it. Show them many examples of various professions and that people from many different cultures do those professions. The school is in need of education because the reality is that some kinds of differences are seen right away such as skin color, movement, and speech and some differences are hidden until they are told or shown. Everybody is different in some way and it happens that in this school, the skin color differences can be seen.
  • Finding a way to show respect for differences and seeing them as positives is what we all need to work on.
  • One way to do this is to talk to school about having some units on differences.
  • Some language to use would be, “I know you want this school to be a welcoming and safe place for everyone, but this is not the case for some kids and when they ask for help they are being labeled and socially isolated.”
  • To your son, you can tell him, “Sometimes people and grownups are not fair even though they are good people. I am so proud of you for telling me what your friend said and so we can discuss this and help everyone learn and grow.”
  • Then practice with him to help him to protect himself from the hurtful things people say to him.

Article References:

Question 2 – My 4 year old was playing with her preschool classmates and the other girls said she could not play because of the color of her skin. She was so confused and when we go to see new people or family we have not seen in sometime she asks, “Are they going to like my skin?” How can we prepare for these situations and what language do we use?

Did anyone see the interaction? No, she told her mom about it after school when her mom asked about her day. After contacting the school and informing them of the incident, the school worked to address it immediately and spoke with her and the other girl who said it and they added some diversity lessons into the class.

Practices/Solution discussion: You can respond to her when these questions come up, “Sometimes kids say hurtful things about our differences, like hair styles, skin color, glasses, or by making fun of our name or by constantly bringing up our mistakes in a way that hurts our feelings. We all need to learn how to protect our feelings and learn how to feel good about ourselves, and this can be hard to do even for grownups. I am so proud that you told me and I am proud of the great things the school did to help educate the other children on how to celebrate differences. ”

  • Next, teach her to use the technique of the Kidpower Trash Can to take the power out of the words. You can say the word to practice or write down the word, then grab it and throw it in the trash can or rip up the paper with the word on it and through it in the trash can, then say to yourself, “I love my skin.”
  • Then let her know that “If anyone says something hurtful, I want you to get adult help so that others can learn to and grow too and learn to be kind and understanding to others.”
  • Make a plan and practice if the adults say, “They did not mean it”. Or if no one is around to help, tell her to say, “That’s not funny” or “it is hurtful to me.”
  • To deal with each situation she might worry about, take each situation and practice with her and use her dolls to practice, say “That is a hurtful thing to say, please stop.”
  • Teaching kids how to interact safely in each environment and role play each plan so she can feel less vulnerable and more confident.

Recommended Resources:

Question 3 – I am a teacher in a progressive charter school where we do lots of curriculum on cultural learning and I want to know how to deal with social aggression through shunning a student around unconscious bias toward an African American student in middle school. The student does all the same behaviors that others do like being loud, pushing physical boundaries, but she is being treated badly when she does these behaviors while the other girls are not. I have seen them at lunch and she will sit down and one-by-one the other girls get up and leave.

Practice/Solution discussion – caller already talked with her and her parents to try and work through it, but she wants to quit school.

  • Intervention is needed.
  • It is important to use practice as a management tool for unsafe behavior. Practice both ends of the situation – dealing with rejection where the rest of the group leaves. The Teacher role plays the student acting in the unsafe way, then coach them through the role play to help them develop some empathy about the impact of their behaviors by working through the practice.
  • There is a practice where you teach the students that you can feel one way and act another. You might feel annoyed or angry at someone or not like them, but you can still treat them in a respectful way. In another practice, do a role play about when kids are getting up after she sits down at the lunch table.  Have them practice saying to those getting up, “I am going to stay here, because it is unkind to leave when someone sits down with you. ”
  • For the physical boundary crossing behaviors, coach them to kindly say, “I know you mean no harm and I feel uncomfortable when you stand this close, please move back a bit.”
  • Help the student being targeted to develop at least one good friend and giving her the skills to protect her emotional safety.
  • Part of the education is to help them understand that these feelings are coming from the larger culture, but your brain can help you to understand and decide not to be that kind of person.
  • Another idea would be to form a leadership group with them where their job is to recognize and address unsafe behavior. Give them the language and empower them to be on the look-out for these behaviors and to be a leader in safety and require them to practice in addition to the discussions.
  • Ways to educate others to help them get over their discomfort over differences:
    • Being persistent
    • Calmly setting boundaries
    • Calling them out on their behavior
    • Getting help

Article reference: Practice as a Management Tool for Unsafe, Disrespectful Behavior

Question 4 – I run a program for children grades 2-5 for corporate offsite afterschool mentoring program for an inner city school and have noticed that the teachers are over worked and frustrated. How do I handle the prejudice coming from teachers coming out toward a younger sibling based on their experience of the older child? The kids are labeled into a category and then they hear this over and over and begin to believe these things about themselves, like, “Disadvantaged, high risk,” or “I can’t read.” I have tried to address this with teachers and they say, “You don’t know what their parents are like. You don’t have the full story.”

Practice/Solution discussion – Teachers are heroes, but can be overwhelmed and we need to know how to take better care of ourselves so that we can address these issues more successfully.

  • Telling stories of kids, where adults thought one thing and it was another or a story from your own life. Giving people the space to vent and get the issues out, then make a plan to address.
  • Some language to use could be, “I know I am on the outside and I see these kids when they come over and I hear their stories. Is there anything my company can do or any resources we can provide to help them feel more confident about themselves?”
  • Come up with rules and guidelines for adults, where we can deal with the needs without using the labels, give them alternatives. Instead of labels say, “The kids here.”
  • Tell the students that sometimes people use negative labels and then teach them how to not take them inside,
    • Use the “That’s not true” practice. Identify it the negative label and practice them saying, “it’s not true.”
    • “You were held back because you can’t read.” So now child feels that way. Help this student develop confidence by letting him read what he wants and celebrate what he is reading.
    • You can do the activity where you make a story about how the person starts to believe about themselves what they have heard others say and then change it around and say something nice to them and the story ends with the student changing that belief.

Article Reference: Personal Triggers, Emotional Attacks, and Emotional Safety Techniques – “That’s not true practice”

Question 5 – How can we teach children that might have to deal with raced based aggression on a daily basis to cope with things that they come in contact with?

Practice/Solution discussion – It is good to talk about the times when it is safe to speak up and when it might be the situations where it is unsafe to speak out. A bullying situation happened in the school having to do with racial differences and making fun of facial features, the school struggled how to handle that.

  • Review situations that have happened and then role play with practicing and coaching the child and giving her the skills to work through it by accessing the situation, whether to speak up or to leave and get help.
  • To speak up and dealing with emotional attacks in a safe way.
  • Relationship safety handbook role plays.

Article Reference: Assertive Advocacy Communication Skills: So Others Will Listen to You Better and Bother You Less


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Published: September 2, 2015   |   Last Updated: September 20, 2017

Beth (she/her/hers) is the Web Communications Director and a Senior Program Leader for Kidpower International. She is a former journalist, now writing & editing coach, business technology and strategy consultant, child protection and gender inclusion advocate, and has been a Kidpower instructor (for all-ages) since 1992.