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Gillian Burdett

Learn what to do when your children have loose lips.

 

 

You want your children to be honest, but because they lack fully developed social skills, kids' comments can sometimes be hurtful, embarrassing or reveal way too much information. 

"There are things parents can do to minimize those moments," says Vicki Hoefle, professional parenting educator and author of "Duct Tape Parenting." "But the truth is, children have a different code of conduct than adults and rarely say hurtful or embarrassing things on purpose."

Hoefle and parenting coach Elaine Taylor-Klaus draw on their expertise in child psychology to offer advice on how parents, nannies, and babysitters can handle common embarrassing moments.

  1. "Mrs. Jones, Why Do You Have a Moustache?"
    Apologize to the person (if you think it's appropriate), but try not to embarrass or humiliate your child, suggests Hoefle. "You can explain later to your child that making comments about a person's appearance, unless it is a compliment, is considered rude."

  2. "Uncle Frank, You Have Stinky Breath"
    "Walk away from the situation and find a quiet place to talk with your child about the interaction," she shares. "Anchor them in the situation by asking them questions like, 'Did you notice how upset Uncle Frank looked when you told him his breath was stinky?' Then ask the child what he wants to do next. Don't force an apology. The goal is to have your child develop awareness for the power of their words and the impact they have on others. Allow this skill to build." 

  3. "I Just Went Number Two in My Pants"
    Why does this proclamation seem to come loudly at the most inopportune times? Your child is uncomfortable and you're embarrassed and trying to figure out how to make a quick exit. This is not the time to worry about what others think. 

    Taylor-Klaus advises you focus on the needs of the child, rather than worrying about what you look like as a parent. Gently reassure your child, with a whisper, that you will deal with the situation as soon as possible. Later, explain that loudly announcing the state of bodily functions in public is not appropriate.

  4. "Mommy and Daddy Went Swimming in the Pool Without Their Bathing Suits"
    "Don't focus on the things that don't matter," says Hoefle. "Enjoy the fact that you are still adventurous, even with three kids under the age of 7. Instead, find the time to talk with your children about family privacy, without making them feel bad for accidentally sharing a private moment between mom and dad."

  5. "My Mom Says Your Christmas Lights Are Tacky"
    Don't want to hear your kids saying something in public? Don't let them hear you say it in private. "Kids mimic what they hear, so be thoughtful about what and how you communicate with and around your kids," she suggests.

  6. "My Daddy Uses Drugs"
    School substance abuse prevention programs often begin in the primary grades. Your child may have learned in school that alcohol and tobacco, while legal, are drugs. That glass of wine you had with dinner may make you a drug user in your child's mind. To prevent a home visit from Child Protective Services, explain your "drug" use to any listener, and then, in private, discuss drug use with your child.

  7. "I Don't Like This Dumb Doll"
    Children are not going to be delighted with every gift they receive and may voice their gut reaction as soon as a gift is opened, as they haven't always mastered the etiquette surrounding gift giving. But, as Hoefle shares, kids will make social blunders. Part of our jobs as parents, caregivers and teachers is to help them learn from those mistakes. "Lecturing or forcing an apology only interrupts the learning and instead transfers the focus onto you."

No matter the situation, your best teaching tool is practicing what you preach. "Model the kind of responses you would like your children to mimic," advises Hoefle. "Be the person you are trying to raise."

What is the most embarrassing thing your child -- or the child you care for -- has ever said? And what did you do about it? Share your story in the comments section below.

Gillian Burdett is a freelance writer in New York. Her writing focuses on education, public policy and family issues. Her work can be found here.

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