“…Shhh… We Don’t Say That Words!”

“…Shhh… We Don’t Say That Words!”

“Mom, look… that lady is so fat!” a little voice whispered when I was waiting to pick up my daughter around her class. That voice was actually my 3 years old son responding to the woman who was walking right in front of us. I am pretty sure that lady was closed enough to us to hear what my son’s whisper….. I was stunning and so unprepared, and found out that my response was to tell my son that it was not good to say that words…..

I did not want the woman felt bad, so I tried to quiet my son as soon as possible. To my surprise, my son was very upset when I told him like that…. I realized that what my son’s doing was part of his observation of the people and his environment… He was just trying to tell me the truth fact about people around him as well as sharing what he was thinking….

My son-my carefree curious little boy-was picking the flower, blowing and smelling... He is my little explorer....

My son-my carefree curious little boy-was picking the flower, blowing and smelling…
He is my little explorer….
Location: Balekambang Garden-Tawangmangu, Solo-Central Java-Indonesia

At that time, I realized that I treated my son inappropriately, but I really did not know what to do, what to say or what not to say. I felt like I was going to say the wrong thing, so should I just say nothing to my son?

It was long ago before I learned and knew about the Anti Bias Education…. Now I realize, as an anti-bias educator and parent, I would have stopped with my son and asked questions to see what he thought about these differences (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011). I should have explained to my son that people were different and they may have different shapes and sizes, and it was just fine. We need to be constantly re-evaluating the messages we give to children (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011). My comment may be simple, but it could make a direct positive statement about diversity and used myself as a parent as a model of other possible ways to think about differences (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011).

My son... I hope you will be ready facing the world full of differences and colors... "There's no beauty in the sameness, only in differences-Paulo Coelho) Location: Orchard Road-Singapore

My son… I hope you will be ready facing the world full of differences and colors…
“There’s no beauty in the sameness, only in differences-Paulo Coelho)
Location: Orchard Road-Singapore

I know I am not the expert yet to be an anti bias educator, but at least the knowledge that I have, would open the door to many possibilities to give a right start for my children to respond about differences. I realize that what my son was doing by saying that the woman is so fat was his way to know more about his own and other’s various identity and appearance (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010). It reflects my son’s desire to make sense of the world. What my son said was not necessarily the signs of developing prejudice.

However, what I did by silencing him (“It’s not good to say that words!”) or avoiding real answers ( “It’s not important!”) can lead my son to conclude that there is something discomforting or fearful about being different (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010).

I really hope that I can build the right foundation for my children’s healthy development and their future life success to develop comfortable and respectful interactions with the differences and all kinds of people around us.

My son and the indigenous girl from Borneo. Location: Sarawak Cultural Village, Kuching, Sarawak-Malaysia.

My son and the indigenous girl from Borneo.
Location: Sarawak Cultural Village, Kuching, Sarawak-Malaysia.

Regards from Borneo-Brunei Darussalam

Evita Kartikasari


Derman-Sparks, L., & Olsen Edwards, J. (2010). Anti-bias education for young children and ourselves. Washington, DC: NAEYC.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). Start Seeing Diversity: Physical Ability and Characteristics. Retrieved from http://mym.cdn.laureate-media.com/2dett4d/Walden/EDUC/6357/CH/mm/audio_player/index_week6.html

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). Start Seeing Diversity: Race/Ethnicity. Retrieved from http://mym.cdn.laureate-media.com/2dett4d/Walden/EDUC/6357/CH/mm/audio_player/index_week6.html


10 responses to ““…Shhh… We Don’t Say That Words!”

  1. Evita,
    I believe it can be difficult to prepare children to meet challenges of the diverse world they live in. We should teach them to respect and value people regardless of their skin color, physical ability or languages they speak. Also, we should listen carefully to what children have to say because that can help us understand their cultural identities and possible bias they create.

    • Thank you very much, Jelena for your great comments….
      yes nowadays the world that our children encounter is much more full of differences everywhere. Hope we can teach the children the right thing to understand themselves as well as the different people around them!

      Evita Kartikasari

  2. Hello Evita, I enjoyed reading your blog and your little boy is cute. After reading your blog, I recalled a time when my son (at this time) was approximately 2 years old. We were at the grocery and a very pregnant woman passed our cart. He said, “look mommy, fat lady fat lady.” I quickly put my finger over my lips to shhhhhhh him. At that time, there was a cartoon show that he watched “Fat Albert.” Darin was very thin and we talked about how people came in different sizes. Thanks for sharing photos of your child with us. Melissa

  3. I love your story about your son. It reminded me of a story my mom used to tell about me when I was your son’s age. I did the same thing to her while we were in line at the bank.

    • Thank you for your sharing Jessica…
      Hopefully with our knowledge in anti bias education, we can be the wise parent to encounter our children’s curiosity and eagerness to learn and grow…

      Evita kartikasari

  4. Evita, thank you for sharing your story and the lovely pictures if your son. I can agree with much of what you presented in your post about our personal discomfort with children pointing out the differences of others. We understand how we are different but, children are exploring the differences between themselves and, others.

    • Thank you for your great comment, Mellisa!

      Our children are actually an honest teacher to us all to teach about understanding differences around us!

      Thanks and Regards,

      Evita Kartikasari

  5. I had a similar situation with my daughter today. My initial reaction was to shush her, but then I realized sh was just making an observation. I instead just discussed with her why this could be hurtful and we talked about what observations we could make that may make her feel good.

  6. Woww… it really works how knowledge can lead us into a better way to respond to the difficult situation especially with your daughter today!

    Really proud of you, Amber!

    Evita Kartikasari

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