Daughter Got Teased at Daycare for Being Different

Updated on July 24, 2012
N.B. asks from Dayton, OH
20 answers

I am a person of Indian descent and my daughter was born in the country. My daughter has been going to daycare for about 1.5 years and she had done very well. She has always been a picky eater and she likes to take this specific Indian dish made with rice. I have always been aware that kids might make fun of her because her food looks different than theirs. As a result I always ask her what she wants to take and till now taking that dish has never been an issue. We recently moved and she started going to this other daycare where she was pretty happy but she suddenly stopped eating lunch. I was concerend and after about 2 weeks of this going on she told me that the other kids make fun of her at lunch time because of her food. She has been very upset about this and is almost to the point where she does not want to eat lunch at daycare. I have no issues packing her sandwiches ( which she does not enjoy that much) but at the same time I want to address the issue of other kids teasing her and also treat this as a learning experience for her and me. I talked to her little bit about it and plan to talk to her teachers. In the meantime I am keeping her out of daycare for a couple of days.

ANy ideas on how to address this situation and what to say to her and her teachers would help a lot.

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answers from Washington DC on

You can talk to the teachers. You say "daycare" so these kids are very young. They can interject a comment on there's nothing wrong with her rice and his baloney and her veggie soup.

I would also try to teach my child to be OK with herself - this is not the last time someone will point out something different. Maybe role play with her at home how to respond and not worry as much about the other kids' opinions (hard, I know).

The thing about life is you can't hide forever. You have to learn to face it. SOME kids may not like her lunch. Whatever. They don't have to eat it. Teach her to hold her head up high and be proud of her heritage. And, please, send her back to school and address it so that the other kids don't think they won over an easy target.

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answers from New York on

I would not keep her out of daycare! How old is she. Talk to the day care
providers. Depends on the age of kids to how it is handled.

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answers from Portland on

Hi NB,

What a good question. As a preschool teacher myself, I would want to know why your child wasn't eating lunch. If you told me what was behind it, here's what I would do:

I would use some books and literature which explains 'difference' in ways youngsters can understand. I would bring Rosemary Wells book, "Yoko", in which the title character brings her favorite food, sushi, to school and is confronted by children who make negative comments.


I would also invite you to make enough of your daughter's favorite dish and then to serve it at a snacktime. I'd also invite other families to bring a snack-sized portion of a healthy dish their family enjoys to share at snacktime too.

I would (and have) use Katie Kissinger's book "All the Colors We Are" which discusses the reason we look different: our parents, our ancestors, and the parts of the world our ancestors came from. One of the activities we do is to use tons of paint swatches to find our best match for each child's eye color, skin color, lip color, hair color... I let the child help find the best matches with a mirror, then we tape/glue the paint swatch onto a piece of paper and write the name of the swatch color--or a child's choice of name for the color-- onto the paper. Thus, children learn that we are *all* different shades of brown and that every color we are is lovely.

Lastly, I would give your child plenty of empathy and focus on the fact that some kids simply don't understand how wide and wonderful the world is. But do have her go back to school. Find commonalities as much as you can, when it's appropriate. We adults can understand that there is a human instinct to categorize/sort people and things by type, but kids can't appreciate that. Do let your child know that you like that she has a wide range of friends, and that she has something special in her life by having a culture that is rich in tradition, even if it isn't reflected back to her. Let her know, too, that only she can decide not to eat her favorite foods-- just because her daycare friends find sandwiches to be their favorite foods doesn't mean that she should stop eating *her* favorite food.

(and as a teacher, I would likely take the teasing child/ren aside and run a little 'empathy check'... "I noticed that you were teasing Suzy about her lunch today. Can you tell me about that? How do you think Suzy feels when you make that say that to her? Do you think that makes her feel happy or sad?" etc.

I hope this helps a little. I'm sorry you and your daughter are having to experience this. I am Caucasian but my adoptive father is Filipino... when I moved to the mainland from Honolulu, I was the only kid I knew who ate Kim Chi, lumpia and other delicious foods. I can relate-- it really, unfortunately, is a lack of exposure to other cultures.

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answers from Washington DC on

You should talk to the teachers. This would be a wonderful learning experience for all the children you should set up a time to come in and share your culture and show the children how food your child and family prepare food at home to eat and share a protion with the students. The teacher can tie this into the lesson and have all the children share in some way their culture or just their way of eating at home. This will allow the student too learn that everyone does things differently and that it is ok. kids are gonna make fun of what they dont know. How old are these kids? The teachers should make this a unit to use in the classroom!
At a school I use to work at we use to do Christmas around the world and I absolutely loved it more than the kids did probably.

12 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

My mom made me peanut butter and banana sandwiches on wheat. Not only did I hate them but kids made fun of them.

You need to explain to your daughter that there is a difference between making fun of a food and making fun of a person.

After reading some of the responses I feel like I should explain. My daughter loves some pretty strange (reads to other kids) food. Sure the kids say what the heck is that!!! She tells them what it is and moves on. They say gross, she says it is good. She offers to let them try. The point is she knows it is the food and she also knows that everyone likes different foods, that doesn't reflect on who she is.

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answers from Seattle on

My son is a food guy. Meaning he often brought lots of 'strange' lunches in the beginning.

HE didn't change his lunches. Some other parents just thought it was a good idea to send dinner leftovers as 'lunch' as well.

And then, boy oh boy, did we start getting some really interesting lunches!! (Very diverse area).

But in the beginning...

His favorite food was broccoli. And he stopped eating it, because he got teased / everyone said it was 'yucky'. Fortunately his teachers and I had the same train of thought :

People like different things.

Some people don't like broccoli.
Some people don't like birthday cake.
Some people DO like broccoli.
Some people DO like birthday cake.

I can't tell you how much this has come in handy (the 'your lunch is yucky' situation).... Because peer pressure SINCE then (he's 10 now) has been almost nil.

People like different things.

I'm more concerned that the teachers haven't brought this up with you / aren't mediating it.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I would talk to the teachers. At this age, they should be fully aware of what the kids are doing at lunch time. It sounds like these kids need their horizons broadened a bit. Perhaps for snack, the teachers could ask ALL the families to bring in a snack (when it is their turn) with some sort of ethnic/cultural significance. If not - the teachers should be discussing differences and diversity with the kids in an age appropriate way - on a regular basis.

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answers from Austin on

I feel you do need to talk to the teachers about this....

I would pose it as a question...

"Did you realize that the other children are making fun of my daughter because of the lunch she brings? It is affecting her so much, that she doesn't even want to eat lunch at daycare."

Ask them how they plan to address it....

I wonder if they could sponsor a "culture" day... and make a point of talking about all the countries that different people/races in the community may have first come from... not pointing at any particular student, unless there are a lot of international families in the daycare, but to just point out that even if a family has lived in the US for several generations, their parents ALSO came from another country (unless they are Native Americans).

Maybe make an assignment to all of the kids to find out a bit of their family heritage to share.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Looking back at your posts it appears your daughter is 4. While I would talk to your daughter about how we are all different and that is okay (and keep reinforcing that message), I feel this issue needs to be addressed by the teachers of the daycare. Where are they during lunchtime and why are they not intervening? I wouldn't necessarily expect a 4 year old to fight her own battles on this one. I would not keep her home but I would definitely get to the bottom of it with the daycare providers and find out why they are not teaching inclusion.

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answers from Kansas City on

I would certainly talk with her teachers. I have had kiddos of different ethnic backgrounds in my care and once in a while someone will ask me why "Jill" is brown or whatever. We talk about how all of us are different, hair, eyes, skin color, size, etc. We also talk about how boring our world would be if everyone was the same.

The teachers could also talk about how every family has different favorite foods, some like just vegetables, some eat a lot of chicken but not a lot of beef... They just need to share that "Susie brings her favorite dish". They could really bring this up while talking about nutrition and different types of food and have all the kiddos talk about their own favorite food.

No one wants to feel that thier child is being picked on or belittled in anyway. Good Luck!


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answers from Dallas on

I am sorry your daughter is dealing with this but honestly, it is a good learning experience because it will happen again. Keeping her at home is not the way to go. Give her some ideas of what to say when kids make fun of her food. Role play and have her pretend to be the mean person and model what she can say. It could look like this:

She says, "Your food looks gross!"
You model, "Yeah, but it tastes yummy! It is my favorite food!"

She says, "Your food smells funny!"
You model, "Those are the spices my mommy puts in it. They make it taste really good."

Then reverse the roles and you be the person teasing her and let her practice responding to you.

Let her tell you what she wants for lunch and if she chooses the rice dish, remind her of what to say if kids make fun of it.

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answers from Lynchburg on

Hi NB-

I would suggest some sort of 'cultural' day/night to the daycare...and opportunity on a specific day/night for each family to bring an ethnic dish to share...not only the recipe...but some of the history/heritage surrounding the dish.

If in the evening, not only a great chance for parents to meet and share...but good for ALL kiddos as well.

Best Luck!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Dayton on

I also teach preschool and it is definitely something that the teachers should address. If they are worth a grain of salt they would use it as a learning experience, to incorporate multicultural diversity as part of emergent learning. However, I have a suggestion. Perhaps the teachers would allow you to come in and do a informal program about India. If you had one, you could bring in a sari and teach them how to wrap one. You could show any Indian objects you have and talk about her food dish. Maybe you could even make it a cooking project. My classroom does a "kids of other cultures" unit every spring and the kids really enjoy it when we have parents come in to tell us about growing up in other places. That way all the kids will know about what makes your daughter special, she can develop pride in her heritage, and the kids can all try her favorite food.
Also, please don't keep her home when she runs into a problem. Teach her that courage is being afraid of doing something yet doing it anyway. It will make her feel empowered.

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answers from Washington DC on

I just wanna say that IF ONLY those kids TRIED the food! My kids can't get enough Indian food! It is DELICIOUS! My husband and I as well really enjoy it, as well as other foods from different cultures. Where we live (DC Metro area), it is SO multicultural that seeing "different" food or different clothing or different accents/ languages is entirely normal. My kids would not think twice about a "different" person- they don't see them as "different"! I grew up the same way; because of where we live, there is a much better understanding and acceptance of everyone.

Sorry she is feeling left out and won't eat her food because of it:( She should be proud of who she is!... You know what would be kind of neat? To SHOW the kids more about the Indian culture and food. Kids don't automatically know something they aren't shown or taught. Kids LOVE learning about new things, and I remember as a child I looked up to others that showed me something interesting about their family, and always wanted to know more- that can start friendships and stop ignorance. That is all it is. They don't know about something, they are unsure, so they make someone feel uncomfortable... mostly, without even knowing it.

Another thing I'd consider is to show that she eats "American" food, too. It may sound silly, but the way kids think... may have them believe that she is really THAT different, when in fact they are all children:)

I hope everything works out. It really is sad to have a child brought down simply because of her wonderful culture and food- should be the opposite!

By the way, and seriously, do you have a recipe you can share with me? I make Chicken Curry in my crock pot and it is good but not nearly as good as authentic Indian cuisine (the good Indian food is expensive so I try and make it instead at home). Another dish I love is Rogan Josh... Could you message me a recipe?

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answers from New York on

I am so sorry this happened! No child should ever be teased or mocked about her heritage -- ever. I would definitely talk to the teachers about it -- as soon as possible. And make sure they take it seriously -- it's their responsibility to fix this problem.

Really, these teachers need to both forbid teasing AND help the children see diversity as a positive. All the suggestions below about books and special potluck dinners have been great.

I just want to close with a little anecdote. I live in Central New Jersey, which has a large and vibrant South Asian community. My son's preschool had an annual "International Dinner," where all the families had to bring a dish to celebrate their heritage. Both years, the South Asian cooking was so popular that no one even wanted to try anything else. The table would have these completely empty bowls with tiny traces of biryani, curries, etc, and then these completely full plates of European/American food, which no one even touched! There were no hard feelings, though; everyone just thought it was funny.

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answers from Dayton on

Hi NB,
I am so sorry to hear about your situation and especially because it is happening around Dayton, where I live too! Well, as you may know, discrimination comes from ignorance. These other children have never had a lunch like your daughters and therefore don't know what they are missing. My son was made fun of for some of the ethnic foods he would bring to school even by his closest friends, so I invited them to a special picnic where I made some of my son's favorite dishes for everyone and of course his favorite dessert too. Before eating, I explained how not everybody likes the same foods, whether it's peanut butter sandwiches or the food you are about to try, so give everything a try once and don't feel bad if you don't like something.

Sure enough, the kids tried everything and some really loved it! So after that when my son took lunch to school, half of his peers couldn't wait to see if he had leftovers that they could have. They would even try and swap out their bland sandwiches for his lunch.

Secret: Personally, I don't think my entrees are anything to brag about but the dessert that he brings sometimes seals the deal.

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answers from Houston on

You need to talk to the teachers and you need to talk to your daughter. People like and dislike different foods. I have a problem when people start throwing the word "discrimination" regarding food.

I was a preK teacher and we had twins from Japan. They brought weird looking food. However, the kids asked questions about the food. They weren't ugly just curious as to why these kids were eating seaweed!!

Are the kids teasing her or are they just asking alot of questions and she doesn't want that type of attention?

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answers from Los Angeles on

Does the preschool provide snacks at snacktime? I'm wondering if you would be willing to make your daughter's favorite dish for the entire class one day and have the teachers serve it to all the children as that day's snack?

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answers from Cleveland on

As awkward as it is I would talk to the teacher in the room and ask her if she could observe what is happening for you. That way you get a better perspective of what's all going on. Plus she then is made aware and can be part of a solution.



answers from Indianapolis on

Malia B has a really good idea about Culture day. My DD's daycare has a lot of children from different backgrounds and they have culture day. Suggest this to the daycare and even volunteer to help out. I wouldn't take her out of daycare. Unfortunately kids are cruel. If it wasn't her food they teased her about it could be something else. If kids find a weak person they will pick on them. Just encourage her to go and to do her best. Let her know that she can come to you about anything that is bothering her and you can address the issue with the right people. Good luck to you and your daughter.

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