Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Where does "mean" come from?

As Lana's English has progressed (and at this point she is very nearly fluent), we are occasionally having to confront a part of Lana's personality that we were not entirely aware of: the child can be mean. (Reference the day she told me that "Mommy no have pretty hair.")

She seems to have developed some serious verbal sparring tactics, and she is lacking in tact (well, she's four, so, I cannot expect her to have a fully developed verbal screen.) But still...

Yesterday, she turned to look at the girl bagging groceries, who happened to have Down's Syndrome. Lana looked at Husband and said, "Why she yucky, Daddy?"


She later ran away from a little old man who sat down next to her on a park bench, saying, "NO! NO sit by YUCKY!!"

Truthfully, I'm perplexed. Gabriel has always been a kind child (although his sister does push the limits of his ability to be nice), and I have no experience with this, and NO IDEA what the proper way to deal with part of her nature might be.

I'm pretty sure that strangling her in public is not the right choice?? (Kidding.) Nor do I think screaming at her that she cannot say "mean things" is really working very well...

Thoughts? Suggestions??



Blogger KelleyO said...

I'd do the sad and disappointed thing if I were you. You know look at the ground and shake your head looking heartbroken that your sweet girl would say something so ugly. If you cry it helps too. Share with her how it hurts your heart.Seriously 4 year old girls are tough.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007 12:50:00 PM  
Blogger KelleyO said...

If that does not work threaten to tell her teacher or someone else that she respects. Let her know how sad it would make them. And if worse comes to worse ask her teacher sit in on one of these conversations about being sweet and respecting other peoples feelings.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007 12:53:00 PM  
Blogger maxhelcal said...

Wow, that IS so embarrassing!

Well, here's what I would do. I would sit her down and have a STERN talk. (maybe both you and Dave together) Since she seems to be understanding English so well, she shouldn't have too much trouble understanding. I would tell her that what she said was MEAN and how it makes the person she said it to or in front of feel and also how it made you feel. (basically embarrassed and disappointed) I would also tell her what Down's Syndrome is and that it is not yucky but a condition that people are born with. Then I would tell her that kind of talk will not be tolerated and she will not do it again or there will be consequences. That's it for now.

Then, MOST IMPORTANTLY, if she does it again, you MUST follow through and punish her when you get home from where ever you were.

I know she's only 4 Gretchen, but kids are very smart(Lana seems especially so) even at 4 and you need to nip this one in the bud or she will forever be getting your attention by acting out inappropriately.

Well, that's just my 2 cents! LOL

Goodluck girlfriend. I am wondering how the exchange student is doing???


Tuesday, July 24, 2007 1:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always just thought that little girls were more observant then little boys. My daughter at 4 would frequently notice people that were different and say something out loud.
Your first reaction of course is embarrassment when she has said someone is too fat or why do they have spots on their face or no hair.
Give her "the look" and take her to a private place like the bathroom or the car. Work on developing her empathy. Keeping your anger in check explain what is wrong with the person, why it might hurt their feelings if they over heard her, how she would feel if it were her. Mention people she knows and likes that have a problem and how she would hate for them to feel bad about it.

You know people in many other countries are not very kind about disabilities at all. You can see in adopting children with special needs they are not accepted by society. Lana might need you to help her see things in a different way.
At four I think it is more noticing a difference and the difference being upsetting to them. I would think of meanness of being more like pinching, spitting, biting, hiding or destroying others loved processions, kicking the pets when no one was looking- that sort of thing.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007 1:44:00 PM  
Blogger maxhelcal said...

Gosh, now I am thinking about it a bit more and perhaps the poster after me was right. Maybe she has witnessed people acting like that in Vietnam. I had never thought of that. hmmm... I still think it is bit mean.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007 1:57:00 PM  
Blogger jenn said...

I have to agree that it is possibly a girl thing. My girls are observant to a fault, I find my nephews very refreshing in this way. Honesty and observant are good things, but so is not harming people's feelings. Explain to her a bit (there is little reasoning with a four year old.) Off the "what if someone said "?" about you, how would you feel?" bit and use what pushes her buttons. She knows how to push yours, push hers.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007 9:32:00 PM  
Blogger Space Mom said...

Honestly, I don't think any of what she said was mean at all.
She is simply making observations and passing them on.

She may not know another word to describe how a person with Down's looks like to her. How would you describe a person with low muscle tone and odd shaped eyes if you don't know much English? Yucky could fit if you are 4.

Instead of shaming her or giving her looks I would actually address it right then and there.

For example: The bagger: "She's not yucky. Every body looks different, Lana. Just like you and Gabe look different. We can't control how our bodies were made and what matters anyway is what is INSIDE a person and how they act, not what they look like"
Don't be embaressed to address the issue right away. You can also try to explain later in private that in the US, people are very concerned about their apparences. And that it is considered rude to say someone is fat or skinny or bad hair or good hair....

Remember that you are switching the social norms on her in addition to everything else...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007 10:17:00 AM  
Blogger S. said...

I think spacemom is right on. The limited English thing is probably a factor, if whe were fluent she might have other words to use than yucky. But I think talking about differences is a good start. THere are tons of good kids books etc. out there i.e. Nemo's fin, etc. that could be good starting points.

I don't neccessarily think it makes her mean, just observant...and honest. I don't recall your faith, but if you believe in God it would be a good time to also talk about how God made us all different etc. etc. and differences can be beautiful.

Reminds of two summers ago, a little girl (not a mean little girl, she was sweet actually) said about my L. (who has Down syndrome) "what is wrong with his face?" I was absolutely stunned and couldn't think of how to respond, especially in front of his big sister...she just said, "Oh, he just has sand on it, that's all!" LOL! That was the end of the conversation.

It is hard in the moment to respond appropriately, but I think it can be addressed at other times.

And I loved the "just happens to have DS"--great to see there are people out there who get it!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007 12:31:00 PM  
Blogger Jenny said...

I wonder if honestly it is a cultural thing? Do you think she would have been old enough to pick up the way Vietnamese are very frank and observant and say whatever?

I mean, while in Viet Nam people were much more frank. ALOT more frank. We were told alot about flaws, they were pointed out etc. This might be something she learned from her foster family? Totally reaching here but otherwise it could just be a girl thing and a lack of communication understanding thing.

Good luck with it though!

Thursday, July 26, 2007 3:17:00 PM  

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