Wednesday, February 01, 2006

When Children Blurt Out Things We Wish They Had Not

By Christina VanGinkel

I had a visitor today, my friend's four-year-old daughter. She stops by once in a while, and when I know she is coming, we often have lunch together. Today, I made raviolis, a favorite of hers. As we were eating them, she suddenly turned to me to inform me that while they were good, they were not as good as her mom's (her mom makes hers from scratch, mine are frozen from the store). My sauce also came from a jar, marinara sauce actually, Newman's Own brand, my personal favorite. She informed me that her mom makes their sauce from scratch, but that it does come from a jar too, after her mom puts it into the jar. She was not being rude at all; she was simply stating facts, as four year olds are apt to do.

Did you ever notice how honest children are at around this age, and think that sure, it has its benefits, but what about those times when the truth may hurt someone's feelings? For instance, my son was about the same age, around four, when we happened to be in line at a large discount store. Behind us in line, directly in view of my son as he sat in the seat of the cart, was a very large man. He was smiling at my son, and outgoing little person that my son was at that age, he was smiling right back. The man waved at him, my son waved back. The man dropped something, and when he bent over to pick it up, err, you could the line of his behind. My son, eloquent as could be, said quite loudly that 'hey Mom, I can see that man's butt!'

Statements such as that are hard to prepare for, but I learned that just talking to him about people's feelings helped alleviate other similar instances such as that from occurring. My husband and I tried not to bring up the subject directly, as we did not want him to feel as if he did something wrong, but at the same time, we wanted him to know that it was not okay to say things about how someone looked, smelled, sounded, etc. We talked to him about different scenarios that he might encounter, such as if someone in a store passed gas loudly, or if someone said hello to him and they had obviously bad breath, and asked him how he would feel if someone said certain things to him. We tried to keep the conversations general, and discussed how we might act too, if these things happened in our presence. We also told him that he could say things to us about any of these things, or anything at all, as we did not want him to feel as if he could not come to us about any subject that he wanted. Just that he should not say what was on his mind in front of strangers, i.e. the man behind us in line.

Whether we went about it the right way or not, I cannot honestly say, but it did help. He would still whisper things when we were out in public, or upon getting in the vehicle, he would go into detail about whatever it was he felt needed saying. In retrospect, I sometimes think it made him more observant about people around him, because rarely did we ever go somewhere that he later did not have a tale to tell. The good thing though is that these were more often than not, pleasant stories. He would ask if we saw how the woman checking us out had on a pretty color dress, or if we saw the boy help carry that woman's bags.

After the scenario in the store that day, I turned to the man and started to apologize, but he was already laughing it off as I was quickly stuttering out an apology. Kids can and do say things that we wish they had not. Not everyone will shake off what was said as easily as that man did either, but in the end, all you can realistically do is try to teach your children good manners. Then, hope that if the moment carries them away again, and they blurt something out you wish they had not, that the person who the comment was in reference too is as pleasant about it as that man was. If not, offer a sincere apology!

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