Embarrassing Comments -- Ask Mrs Manners

Cynthia Dermody
manners and etiquette
Photo by stacy77
The toddler years are the perfect age to start teaching your kids manners and good habits. And MrsManners aka: Angela Pitre, owner of the CM group Manners for the Modern Family and FamilyMannersMadeFun.com, is here to help.
My three year old son manages to embarrass me all the time. He always makes comments about people when they are standing right there and they can clearly hear.

For example: Today, there were three ladies sitting next to us at a restaurant. He pointed at the lady and said twice, "That lady right there talks like a man."

Today at the park, the little girl swinging next to us had red dots all over her body (I have no clue what they were) and he said looking and pointing at her, "That girl has pimples all over her body."

One time he pointed out that a girl had dirty teeth ...

What do you do when your children do this? Do you ignore them or do you tell them right then that it's not good to say that stuff? I have just been ignoring him, but I don't know if that's what I should do. -- Yayay15

MrsManners says:

While this behavior is certainly embarrassing, try looking at life from the perspective of a three year old. Curiosity prevails. How could you not be surprised when you hear a woman who sounds like a man or see a girl covered in red dots? You wouldn't necessarily understand it and would try and make sense of it the best way you knew how. In the case of the little girl covered in red dots, your son associated the red dots with pimples because at some point in time, he saw a pimple and it was explained to him (or he just picked up on it).

It is time to take control of the situation so you can feel comfortable again when you go out in public. Yes, you need to talk to your son about these things; ignoring the situation will not help in the least. While telling him that his behavior is not okay at the time it happens would be a good start, it may not be the best first step. If you haven't been talking to him about it, he has no idea that what he has been doing is wrong. To tell him it is wrong for the first time when it is happening may draw attention to the situation and embarrass both of you further.

What you can do is be proactive about it. You know he has a tendency to study people and to notice his surroundings, so be prepared for it. Talk to him about the differences between people. There are dozens of children's books available that talk about tolerance and diversity if you aren't particularly comfortable with doing it on your own. The goal is to show him that there are lots of differences between the way people look, but that at the end of the day, we are all people and we are all the same on the inside. We should be respectful and mindful of our differences.

Explain to him that it is okay to ask questions when he sees a person who looks different from himself, but tell him how to do it. Maybe he needs to wait until you are alone to ask about it. But no matter how you decide to address it, he needs to learn NOT to state it right out loud. He is old enough to understand a bit about feelings. While he may not have mastered his emotions, he definitely knows what it means to be sad.

So tell him that when he says those things out loud the way he does, it can make the other person feel sad. Ask him to try and think about what he is saying before he says it. How would it make him feel if he were different, say, someone else said, "Look at that boy! He has pimples all over his body!" Chances are it would make him feel sad and it is okay for him to know that he may have made someone else sad, too.

If in fact your son slips up (which he will) and says something that is truly embarrassing to you and you know the other person heard you, you should apologize to the person. Something to the effect of, "Please pardon my son, he didn't mean to be hurtful." Obviously, you want to cater the apology to the situation.

Another way to learn about the different ways that people look is by using TV; Handy Manny is a great one. If you watch it together, you can talk about all the differences you see in the characters.

Remember that communicating what your expectations are to your son will make your outings much more palatable. On the car ride to wherever you are going, have a nice little reminder talk to help ensure an embarrassment free day.

If you try all of these things and your son still insists on blurting things out, then it is time to use a different tactic. You will want to begin punishing him for his behavior, whether it is apologizing, time-outs or whatever you do in your home.



Got a question for MrsManners? Leave it here or PM her, and she'll answer it in a future column ...

Past Ask Mrs Manners columns:

Taking Other Kids' Food

Dealing with Trash Talk

Refusing to Pick Up Toys

Dining Out With Toddlers

Attention, Please!

Spoiling vs. Nurturing

Strangling the Dog

Please Don't Interrupt!

10 Signs Your Toddler Is a Brat

Banish the Burp

Should Kids Be Forced to Share Toys?

Winging the Pacifier

Should Parents Say 'Thank You'?

Toddlers Eating Everything

Throwing-Obsessed Toddlers

Are You a Hypocrite?

Pushy Toddlers

Taming the Messy Eater

How to Have Well Behaved Toddlers

My Son Won't Stop Touching Other Moms' Breasts!

Is Shyness Impolite?

Stop Peer Pressure Early

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