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That Man Looks Weird

I went shopping with the kids at a bad time.  Bang on 12 noon.  I had one child in the front  of the trolley who wanted to be on the ground, one in the back who wanted to be in the front and two walking beside me that wanted to hang off the back.  To make matters worse I managed to land a dud trolley.  You know the ones you take from the bay and seem perfectly sane until you put a child in? And then crooked wheel syndrome kicks in at about 100 metres from the closest trolley bay.  Why is that?  As I was fighting with the trolley around a stand of glass vases, I heard my youngest daughter yell, “MUM THAT MAN LOOKS WEIRD!”  I mean — sweetie — could you have said it any louder?  I looked around saw a man with one leg in a wheel chair.

Kids are brutally honest and this type of situation has occurred many times as each of my children learnt what is socially acceptable and what is not.

When these situations happen I can:

1.       be angry;

2.       apologise to the person in question for my child’s behaviour;

3.       make my child apologise to the person in question;

4.       communicate with my child; or

5.       dig a hole in the floor.

I pick number 5! Number 5! Please floor, just swallow me whole.

Fortunately for me in this case, the man in question seemed to have good sense of humour and responded, “My leg fell off!”  I thought: good on him!  In fact, I almost gave him a hug… but he had already moved on.

I then got down and talked quietly to my daughter. I can’t remember exactly what I said but it was something along these lines:

“Sweetie, saying someone looks weird is not kind. If you want to ask me something quietly at home, you do that and we can discuss it. Calling someone weird is not kind and it’s not okay.”

How I react in a situation like this depends on many factors, including how the person reacts, how stressed I am, the age of my child, the situational circumstance and if the person in question heard or not. I really don’t know how to make the right call but I’ve written down some comments here:

1. Be angry:  I don’t believe very young children are intentionally rude.  Sure, if my 7 year-old said someone looked weird, that would be a different story, but in young children, their blunt honesty is part of a their beauty.  I love it how they say what is on their mind and I don’t want to stop that, just shape it a little.

2.  Apologise to the person in question for my child’s behaviour: I’m happy to apologise to a person my child has offended and do so if I can.  But I apologise for the offence rather than the child.

3. Make my child apologise to the person in question: This is tricky.  I say in number 1 that the child is not at fault so am I contracting myself if I make them apologise? Or, are they learning if they hurt another’s feeling, regardless whether it was intentional or not, an apology is in order?  Both are true I expect and I usually judge each situation separately and act accordingly and hopefully wisely.

4. Communicate: Absolutely, every time. How can kids learn what is socially acceptable if we don’t tell them/show them?

5. Dig a hole in the floor: I MUST take a shovel on my next shopping trip.

In my experience, when children are very young, it’s sometimes hard to know how they are going to respond to certain situations and people. Maybe it’s just my kids, but they have all said inappropriate things in public.  I take  the opportunity  at moments like this one, to invest instruction into my children’s lives. I don’t like to think of it as training to be “nice” — anyone can be nice — but rather “kind”,  a truly edifying attitude.

In my mind, I’m working towards the model detailed in my post Three Gates: Words of Wisdom.  The idea is to teach my children to think about what they say before they say it by challenging them to mentally put the words through three gates before they speak.  The diagram looks like this:

Teaching children to be kind

Read the post if you are interested in how the system works.

I guess we all say things that hurt other people, even as adults.  I know I have, and I’ve said inappropriate things too.  This is not unique to children.  When I’ve hurt someone I try and make it right when I can and constantly apply myself to kindness.

Has your child said something embarrassing or inappropriate in public? What do you do?

 

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13 Comments

  • Reply
    Tweets that mention That Man Looks Wierd | Be A Fun Mum -- Topsy.com
    December 7, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kelly Long Burstow, Be A Fun Mum. Be A Fun Mum said: That Man Looks Wierd https://beafunmum.com/2010/12/when-children-embarrass-their-parents/ […]

  • Reply
    Bonnie
    December 7, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    My daughter (at the time 4) pointed at a bearded man in the street and called out ” Look Mummy! It’s Jesus!!” lol

    • Reply
      Kelly Be A Fun Mum
      December 8, 2010 at 9:01 pm

      BAHAHAHA! Well, Gem saw a man with a beard and said, “It’s an Angel!” I bet he never heart that before…

  • Reply
    Catherine
    December 7, 2010 at 11:26 pm

    At my son’s first harvest festival at school, he proudly took his basket up to the front and put it on the table next to the vicar and came back to sit next to me. A little while later he said, in a voice loud enough to drown out the vicar, “He’s NOT giving it back.” My son’s outburst had been loud enough that certainly the people closest to us were listening intently when I quietly explained that it was going to be taken to hungry children. My son’s response, louder than ever was, “But, I’m hungry now”. There was a lot of snickering and I found some jelly babies in my bag to keep him happy and was very careful at future events to be well supplied with quietening foods, paper and pen.

    • Reply
      Kelly Be A Fun Mum
      December 8, 2010 at 9:01 pm

      HA! That is SOOO funny! Of so logical of him! Love it! Thanks for sharing Catherine.

  • Reply
    Hear Mum Roar
    December 10, 2010 at 10:50 pm

    My eldest child, when four, was trying very hard to be considerate when we were walking to the shops. She politely announced, ‘I’m just going to move over to let that dead lady go past’. OMG!! (She was really elderly)

    I COULDN’T speak! I just wanted a helicopter to fly over me and pluck me up into the sky. I waited until the lady went past, and I explained to my daughter that SOME people might take offense to being called ‘dead’. She accepted this, and never did it again.

    I went home, and spent the rest of the day, rocking back and forth, praying that the lady was stone deaf. Oh, and side note: WHY is it, that whenever kids do this stuff, they NEVER do it when dad takes them out, only mum? Argh

    • Reply
      Kelly Be A Fun Mum
      December 13, 2010 at 10:34 am

      BAHAHAHA! Dead lady? Oh man alive. Or lady alive I should say. You never know, it may have made her day. lol

  • Reply
    Robyn
    December 12, 2010 at 6:49 am

    Wouldn’t a shovel be handy??! 🙂 Thank you for the reminder of the three gates. I hope you don’t mind but I’ve just printed off a copy of the photo to stick up for the girls (much of what they are saying to each other this morning wouldn’t make it past the “is it kind” gate!)

  • Reply
    katie
    December 12, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    i love the 3 gates idea, i think we have all fallen victim at one stage or another of having no filter on what we say..thanks i will be using this in future!!!
    awesome post!!

  • Reply
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