Innocence And Tactlessness
You're out and about with your child. You feel confident that you have taught your child good manners and how to behave in public. Then, in whatever situation, your child blurts something out in total innocence that is totally and completely tactless. And you're mortified.
It doesn't matter whether it was true or false, telling the nice lady behind the counter at the grocery store that her blue hair is ugly was rude! So much for those manners and lessons, you think... but it's not that simple.
Look, we've all been there. We've all been in a situation where our sweet child, learning the ways of the world, says something not quite right, or even downright awful. In trying to absorb your lessons of manners and honesty, sometimes things get a little mixed up. You child didn't do it on purpose!
Anger is not the way
As embarrassed as you are, getting angry with your child sends the wrong message — you want them to learn the right things to say and boost social confidence, not become afraid. As mortified as you are in the moment and no matter how much you want to get out of there, remember your child's age and stage. If the comment requires an apology, you should be the one to give it. Then you can say to your child, "I understand you were trying to say something nice, but it didn't come out exactly right. Let's talk about it in the car."
Careful with the cover
"Most people understand that kids are kids."
You may think, in the moment, that you need to say something to cover for your child. Maybe you do, and maybe you don't. In some instances, a cover will just draw attention to the improper comment. Most people understand that kids are kids. If it's not that big of a deal, don't make a big deal about it. Apologies should be kept short and to the point. Going beyond that may just make things worse.
Tact is tricky
Tactfulness is a subtly of social interaction that is difficult to master. Some never do! There's probably an adult in your life that regularly missteps. If it's hard for some adults to figure out what to say sometimes, it's doubly hard for a little kid.
Perhaps the best way to talk about it is in terms of kindness. Reiterate the Golden Rule, and suggest the kinds of things your child could say in such a situation. For example, you could demonstrate how to compliment something your child does like rather than focusing on what your child thinks is strange. Oftentimes children will say something about a person's race, weight, disability or other aspect of their appearance. Be sure to allow your child to interact with a variety of people so that they realize that these types of differences are commonplace and not something to be gawked at or made fun of.
Accept the grace of others
Because most of us have been in this situation at one time or another, there are plenty among us who will just giggle inside or offer an understanding glance. You are not the first to experience one of these social missteps in the course of raising a child... and you won't be the last. Granted, there will be some who are not so kind about it, but those people would do well to remember back to their own imperfect childhoods!
Take heart in the understanding of others. Talk to someone about the incident to be reassured that you are not alone in the experience or the embarrassment. It really does happen to all parents at one time or another. And, eventually (hopefully sooner than you think!), you'll be able to laugh about it. You will.
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