4 “Race Talk” Mistakes Every Mom Should Avoid


If you’re a mom who wants to know what to say when talking about race with her child, then you need to avoid making these 4 mistakes.


Mistake #1: Repressing Your Feelings


The core idea for you with this is that not acknowledging your real feelings, not admitting your fears and concerns, and not wanting to appear insensitive will derail your whatever goals you have for your race-talk with your child.


You need to understand that making this mistake means you will decrease the likelihood of being able to talk to your child in a positive instructive way.


If you don’t avoid making this mistake, then your child may not be aware of or well-prepared enough to handle what’s going on in their outside environment.


What’s the best way to avoid this mistake? As a mom, you should get in touch with and admit your real feelings about race and verbalize them to a trusted friend first.

Mistake #2: Assuming You Know How A Person-Of-Color Feels


The important thing to understand with this mistake is that when you assume you know a person-of-color’s story, then you cut off any potential real conversation with them. Cutting off the conversation is cutting off the other person. And cutting off the other person will make them feel hurt and unheard. Noone likes to be cut off, right?


In making the assumption mistake, you are modeling that behavior to your child. And when they learn that from you, it will actually hurt your child’s ability to be able to handle themselves around people of color in the outside world.

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Moms can’t neglect avoiding this mistake because if you make such assumptions then you will unintentionally increase the likelihood of your child contributing to the racial conflict in society.


The best way to avoid making this mistake is to approach your race-talk with your child by first asking them questions to find out

  1. How they feel?
  2. What they think?
  3. What they know?

That way you are modeling for your child how to be be sincerely open and eager to engage with people-of-color.


Mistake #3: Claiming Innocence


The core idea moms need to grasp with this mistake is that  claiming innocence (“I’m not racist”) is equivalent to your not acknowledging your role and/or your racial group’s role in breaking race relations.


Moms need to understand that making this mistake means that you are communicating an unwillingness to (re)build connections for a relations to exist harmoniously.


Avoiding this mistake is critical to the success of your race-talk with your child.




Because if you don’t, then you will be unintentionally invalidating the experience(s) of people-of-color. Additionally, in modeling this pattern, you will be teaching your child to do the same, which will contribute to generational perpetuation of the overall conflict.


So to avoid this making this mistake you should definitely, at minimum, acknowledge the overall role your racial group has had in race relations in the United States.


Mistake #4:  Excusing (Bad) Behavior


The main point here is that, though feelings are feelings; they are neither good nor bad. What a person does with those is what is good or bad. Actions that actions that inflict harm, induce danger, incite actions that put another person’s life at risk are…well…bad.


As a mom, you would not want any harm to happen to your child nor would you want your child to do any harm to someone else. And as a mom, you would want your child to be able to recognize bad behavior in their environment so that they can keep themselves safe.


To not make the mistake of excusing (bad) behavior, then make sure to speak up about any behavior that causes harm to another human being.


In doing so, you will help your child not only develop empathy but also a reference point for their own or other people’s behaviors.


If you’re a mom who needed a starting point for having the race-talk with her child, then this article definitely got you off to a great start. The 4 mistakes I’ve covered (and how to avoid them) will definitely help you get closer to your race-talk goals and help you know what to say (& what not to say).

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Want even more? Well, if you’re a mom who wants to get a foundation in what you need to know in order to have meaningful conversation with your child about race then LEARN MORE with the “Mom Talks Race” Course


© Dr. Michelle Deering


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