Monday, September 14, 2009

Say it a little louder. Canada didn't hear you.

I tried to find a generic photo for this post, but there wasn't a photo of a child with a megaphone large enough to do it justice!
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You see, in the last week, we've had 2 incidents where Carson, completely innocently, has LOUDLY commented on another person's appearance in public. And you all know there's no way he was saying something like, "Mommy, that lady is so beautiful!" or "What a trendy scarf!" No, no. As kids do, he notices things that are unusual or--to his mind--comical.
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These weren't the first 2, but the 2 from last week:
"WHOA! That man's nose is REALLY big! It's SO FUNNY!"
(Man was returning a cart at COSTCO at the same parking lot cart return where we were slowly loading up, so he was approx 5 feet away and surely heard. He did, in fact, have an unusually large nose.) I said, "Oh, OK. Well that's not nice to point at people. Can you not do that, please?"
What do I do?!
and:
"That guy's stomach is SO BIG! It's falling over his pants!"
Fortunately, this one was made in the car regarding a passerby, so Trent and I exchanged looks of chagrin and worry, because it was loud and emphatic, and could easily have happened right next to the man.
Not being super-prepared for the teachable moment, I stumbled something out about how God makes people of all sizes, shapes, colors, heights, etc., & that each person is special, blah, blah, blah. Then I said that if he wants to show me something interesting about a person, he needs to whisper it quietly, because...uh, it may make that person feel sad if they think we are laughing at them.
What do I do?!
I let it go, so as not to make a huge deal out of it, but realized this is something that might be happening more often as Carson's language and observation skills are improving.
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OK, so parents, what have you said to your kids to minimize these moments? (Because, let's be honest, they are GOING to happen.)

8 comments:

Jo B. said...

There is always the classic phrase from Thumper's Mom: "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."

Shannan said...

Hi Jen!
My boys have always blurted out things when they were younger.
The ones I remember:
Jackson (upon looking at a teenager with terrible acne serving us ice cream) "What is all over her face?"

Blake (when my friends - a same sex couple - came over to visit) - Are they married to each other? They can't do that!!

Who sees what Chase comes up with - so far he has pulled my shirt down twice in front of a crowd of people.

Rory said...

Ha! Eva just pointed out a lady's lip ring today while we were at the photo counter at Target. The lady heard, and we had a full friendly discussion about it. The lady actually works behind the counter and goes, "Wow, she points that out everytime she's here." I didn't even bat an eye and said, "Yup, she's at a very literal and observant stage. SHe likes to point out things she things are interesting and beautiful." And I left it at that.
We've done two things with this type of scenario: 1) Role-played A LOT about public scenarios beforehand. The kids have fun acting stuff out and we have some preventative teachable moments. 2) Sometimes they still hit you out of the blue and can embarrass you or another person in public. So far, my kids haven't maliciously tried to point out anything, but they still state the painfully obvious. We take several approaches to this. If it's something about the person that they purposefully did to themselves (i.e. clothing choice, wild hair color, piercings, tattoos, etc.) then I don't feel bad at all when my child loudly points these things out. I figure those are stylistic things a person has chosen for the sake of being noticed. I acknowledge the statement my kid has made and then address things very matter of fact. Like with the lip ring today. Eva pointed it out and then wanted to know why the lady had one. To which I said, she put on her lip ring to look pretty just like Eva puts on her necklaces. And that's that. Now, for more personal items like the mole on a person's face, the large nose, the overweight, the handicapped, etc., we take a different approach. Again, if my kids point out something matter of fact like "Mommy, that person is big" or "Why does he have no legs?" Then I will say just what you said, "God made us all sizes, shapes, and colors. Isn't that neat?" And then I might point out something positive and unique like that the child without legs has a really cool wheelchair and I bet he knows how to ride it on all kinds of roads. That kind of thing. If the statement is followed by a rude opinion and laughter, then there is immediate action. But I don't take "embarrassed" action. Yes, I would feel horrible if my kid hurt someone's feelings, but I don't try to "shh" them down (I mean, unless they weren't closing their mouths!:)), but rather respond as a parent fully in control. I discipline them according to the offense. Meaning, I might tell them in a normal voice that I have found what they said to be rude and inconsiderate and against our #1 family rule (treat others as you want to be treated), and that while I might not have a moment to address it right then (if I'm in the check out lane), I let them know that we will address it further once we're in the car. And of course if they actually spoke unkind things to the person I would make them stop and apologize. Not only do the boundaries then continue to be enforced, but other folks around me start to see an awkward moment turned into a teachable one. If I get flustered and act embarrassed and don't take any action at all in that public setting (especially when the person heard the offense), then it's almost as if I'm agreeing with what my kid said. You know what I mean? It's like saying, "Uh yeah, I know that person is HUGE. We all know it, but just don't say it out loud." And I've so been there before! Where I'm just embarrassed that they said it, caught off guard, and then shhh them all the way out to the car. I've since learned that that hurts the person's feelings worse, and makes them feel like a freak show rather than letting them observe me parent my child. And of course I have to remember that I don't have to wear my kid's indiscretions as a garment of personal shame. Every body has a story like this! It sounds like you are handling it with wisdom and grace, and I wouldn't expect anything less from you! Okay, did I babble on enough? Just too funny that you posted this today and it just happened to us!:)

Rory said...

Oh, and I what I forgot to say, was that no matter how I respond in public, we ALWAYS have a closing discussion in the car or at home. In public we keep it short and sweet. At home is a more safe place where the kids can continue their line of questioning and I am much more focused on them than on all the eyes of the public watching me!:)

Diane Davis said...

not sure how to respond, but i think this is the best blog title ever.

actually, i think if you are embarassed, rather than wisking the kiddos away, i'd make sure to acknowledge it with the person. saying sorry, or something funny, or just saying it is hard to be a parent and you'll keep working at it. when people are called out, the mom that doesn't have eye contact can feel like double shame. that's just my two cents.

that carson is a curious, wonderful, articulate, frustrating, delightful HANDFUL! :)

Rory said...

Good point Diane! I came back on cause I thought I accidentally posted my comments twice. I totally agree on not calling out the person, and to clarify, meant trying to turn around the situation more positively and purposefully. Wouldn't want that to be taken the wrong way!:)

Diane Davis said...

rory... i will admit that i didn't read the other comments before i posted mine. i was rushing at work. :) but I AM going to read what you wrote right now! i'm sure it is pure genius! :)

Lisa P said...

Wow! Between Rory and Diane, you've got the best advice there is! I agree whole-heartedly with 1. eye contact and 2. not getting flustered. At home, in our follow-up discussions, we talk about how it would feel if someone pointed out Alexa's teeth (the enamel is thin and they chip) or other characteristics that we have. It helps them understand why their comments might hurt someone else. Good work on this!