13 Ways to Tackle Racist Bullying Behaviour at Home: A Guide for Parents/Carers
Tackling racist bullying behaviour can feel challenging – and that’s because it is! Racist bullying behaviour often stems from deep-rooted, systemic racism and can manifest itself in a variety of ways. But there are practical steps you as a parent/carer can take to open up conversations around race with your child/ward. Here are some of our top tips. Don’t forget to also view our accompanying video from our Anti-Bullying experts for further guidance.
1. Be Curious
It’s important to have open and honest conversations with your child/ward about racism. For older children, you could ask what they know about the Black Lives Matter and other race-related movements and what they’ve heard from others such as their friends or teachers. Use active listening (i.e. fully concentrate and respond to what is being said) and try to hold these conversations in a calm environment – while they’re rushing out the door for school or worrying over homework is probably not the best time! Instead, why not hold the conversation over dinner or on a car journey? Show you are curious and open to their thoughts by asking open questions like ‘what is your opinion on this?’ and ‘is there anything you think we could talk through together?’.
2. Address Racist Comments and Behaviour
Sometimes, young people may hear or pick up words and language from their peers that are problematic and have become normalised– for example, some young people use ‘that’s so gay’ as an insult, without fully understanding the term or why this is hurtful and homophobic. The same can be true of racist comments and behaviour; if you notice your child/ward saying or doing something like this, gently but firmly explain why it is wrong and the harm it can cause. One way you could do this if you’re unsure is to ask how they would feel if others used their name as an insult, e.g. ‘that’s so Harry!’ It would probably make them feel pretty upset! This is similar to how it feels for LGBTQ+ people to hear ‘that’s so gay’ used as an insult for something that is rubbish. Often, young people are unaware of how their words or actions impact others and reminding them of this provides them with the opportunity to learn and change their behaviour going forward.
3. Recognise and Celebrate Difference
Young people – particularly younger children - are curious! When your child/ward asks you about someone else’s skin colour, hair or anything else they notice to be different from their own, you have the power to turn this into a learning opportunity. Acknowledge that people’s appearances often differ and that no one skin colour, hair type, etc is better than another. Remind your child/ward that everyone deserves to be treated fairly and equally and their appearance cannot change this. You could ask them how they would feel if they were treated differently based on their appearance – they probably wouldn’t like it and would think it was unfair!
4. Tune into Social Media
Particularly for older children, social media and the internet can have a big influence on how they view the world and others who appear different to themselves. Ask your child/ward what they are reading and seeing on these platforms – you could even ask them to show you the sorts of things they engage with in a non-threatening manner, for example, saying ‘I’d like to learn more about Instagram. Could you show me one evening this week?’ is often a better approach to ‘show me your phone right now!’ Give your child/ward the opportunity to be the ‘adult’ in the situation by taking on the teaching role and sharing their knowledge with you. Some questions to help shape these conversations include ‘do you think that people of all ethnic backgrounds are represented on social media? If not, why do you think this is?’ and ‘Who are some of the people you follow online? Do they come from a diverse array of backgrounds and experiences?’
5. Encourage Action
Following from above, many young people use social media to stay up to date on important issues like anti-racism. There are tons of great young activists who speak out on issues of race and racist bullying behaviour. Why not ask if your child/ward follows anyone who talks about these issues online and – if not – explore pages that promote anti-racism online.
6. Explore Diverse Cultures
Introduce your child/ward to diverse cultures and people from different races and ethnicities – this could be through your own friendship groups/networks, cooking up delicious food/reading books/watching films from other cultures or by asking their school teachers to host an event to celebrate students’ cultures. For example, students could bring in food or dress in clothes from their own culture to share and teach to others. By experiencing cultures different to their own, young people will have the opportunity to understand that being different is something to celebrate and to build friendships with peers from different backgrounds.
7. Diversify your Bookshelf/DVD Collection
Reflect on the books and films your child/ward has access to at home – do they reflect diverse authors and characters? Seek out new books/films that portray people from different backgrounds and that feature minority actors playing interesting lead characters. We often see people of a similar background taking on the lead roles in big blockbuster films so it’s important to challenge this stereotype by diversifying the books/films we read/watch.
8. Speak with the School
If your child/ward attends school, speak with their teacher to find out how anti-racism is integrated into school life and how their anti-bullying policy helps tackle racist bullying behaviour. What opportunities do students have to discuss anti-racism as a student group and be active leaders against racist bullying behaviour? You could encourage them to sign up to The Diana Award’s free Anti-Bullying Ambassador Training or specific anti-racism training from organisations like Show Racism The Red Card.
9. Lead by Example
Be a role model for your child/ward and model the behaviour you could expect them to display towards others. Be mindful of the language you use to describe others. Consider whether your own friendship group and/or colleagues represent a diverse and inclusive group?
10. Finally, remember that you’re doing a good job!
No one expects you to be an expert on racism or racist bullying behaviour and it’s ok to not have all the answers. By talking to your child/ward and following some of these top tips, you’ll be well on your way to building an open and trusting relationship with them where they feel able to talk about challenging topics.