Promoting Empathy With Your Teen

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How to Respond To Insults

How Children and Teens Should Respond to Racial Slurs.

Recently I watched two clips on the ABC website from The View. The clips features an argument between Sherri Shepherd and Barbara Walters about who can and cannot use the designated hate word n****r. Sherri's argument was on why it's okay for blacks to use the word and why's not okay for whites to use the same word.

I respectfully disagree with Sherri, my position on the designated hate word, alongside other hateful slurs is that no one of any race or culture should use these words. Especially descendants of Black Africans when it comes to the "n" word, because self hate usually hurts more than hate from a person who belongs to another cultural or ethnic group.

It is also a dangerous position for parents of black children and teens to take, in regards to teaching their children that white people are not supposed to address them with this racist and hateful slur. Instead, parents should teach their children how to assertively respond to hateful slurs and insults without overreacting. When we teach our children what others are supposed to say and not say to them, we set them up for failure, because the tendency to overreact when other human beings exercise their natural ability to say whatever they please is high. At the end of the day, if two kids get into a physical altercation, the school authorities will always come down harder on whoever started the physical altercation, regardless of what was said prior. The law also works this way, it is not a crime in the United States to use racial slurs.

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Consider this story, I once worked with a fourteen year old, after he was ordered by a judge to receive anger management therapy. His mother had picked him up from the juvenile detention center on a particular day instead of his school after he had broken the nose and cracked the right eye socket of another student who he believed had called him the "n" word. During the course of our work together, he would share with me that he never heard the student call him the word, but instead other students had informed him that this was what the student he hurt had said. He had shared this with me because he had come to suspect that the allegations some of his classmates had made about the other student weren't true.

"So why would they lie?" I asked him.

"Guess they wanted to see a fight," he replied.

This is where the danger lies, when we come to believe and rely upon other people to follow certain rules about what they can and cannot say, we unintentionally teach our children to become emotionally spineless. They become emotional meltdowns waiting to happen simply because someone utters a word. We should not make rules about who can and cannot utter insults to us or our children, we should instead teach our children to become emotionally prepared in being compassionate and assertive when confronted with hateful words.

So rather than the following words, "What did you say! How dare you!? You are not supposed to say that!"  Consider these alternatives, "Why would you say that? Is this really how you feel about me? What does that mean?"

In my upcoming book on anger management, I discuss at length effective techniques I teach my clients on how to respond to insults, amongst other triggers.

So what are your thoughts? Do you have a better argument? If so please leave your interesting, non prejudice and creative comments in the comment section.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and owner of Road 2 Resolutions, a professional counseling and life coaching practice.

Ugo Uche is a Licensed Professional Counselor who specializes in adolescents and young adults.

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