Our children sure are cute, but sometimes they can embarrass the hell out of us. While they certainly don’t mean to be insensitive, they can be very literal and often have no sensor.
This bluntness and curiosity can definitely keep us on our toes. Here is a guide to gracefully handling some red-in-the-face situations when your child asks or says something completely and utterly inappropriate.
“Why is that person so fat?”
If the person is pregnant, this situation is easy to handle. If not, you will have to do some quick damage control. Saying too much will just make you and the other person more uncomfortable. Tell your child that everyone has different body types and immediately apologize for his indiscretion.
Once you are alone with your child, explain how a question like that may hurt a persons feelings. Ask your child how he would feel if someone said something about him that he was self-conscious about.
“Why is that man asking for a money?”
Tell your child the truth, “He probably doesn’t have any money to buy food or clothing, so he’s asking for it.” Later when you are alone with your child, keep your explanation simple: “Some people don’t have a job, and so they may need to ask other people to help them out.” By age 5 or 6, your child is probably capable of understanding that some people have no permanent place to live.
If she seems concerned and wants to assist the homeless, you might suggest volunteering together at a soup kitchen or donating old clothes, toys and books to those in need. Whatever your child’s age, however, it is important to reassure her that your family is fortunate enough to have food to eat and a comfortable home.
“Why is that woman sitting in a chair with wheels?”
It is normal for your child to be curious about how such a device works and why someone needs to use it. Explain that some people’s legs stop working and they need a chair with wheels to help them get around. “Tell him that everybody has things that make them unique — some of which we can see and others which we can’t,” says Lynne Kenney, PsyD, a pediatric psychologist and family coach in Scottsdale, Arizona.
You might also suggest that the next time your child sees a person who has a physical challenge, he should try talking to her rather than talking about her.
“Yuck! That man really stinks!”
Tell your child that adults, like children, should clean their body regularly, but sometimes they haven’t had a chance to wash themselves after they’ve gotten sweaty, and some people simply can’t help the way that they smell. Experts suggest using this opportunity to reinforce good hygiene habits: “That’s why you need to take a bath, wash your hands well after going to the bathroom or playing outside and brush your teeth.”
It is our job as parents to help our child think before they speak and learn how to observe the people around him without passing judgment. Developing an internal monologue takes time and practice, so it pays to start correcting your child when they are still preschool age. As they get older, those innocent remarks will be less excusable and will be an increasingly bad reflection on you.
Photo credit: Black Country Museums