Kids say the darnedest things, right? From mispronouncing words to commenting on a taboo topic in a crowded room, kids have a knack for embarrassing the grownups around them. While older kids sometimes do this for attention or simply to test the waters, one thing is universally true: Your response to their comments can either cause emotional pain or it can help them learn. With that said, here are six of the most common embarrassing topics of conversation and some suggestions on how to manage them.
Asking a person who has a round belly if she is pregnant. This type of comment will usually appear when your child knows someone who is expecting. While not a pleasant thing for any woman to hear if she is not pregnant, it does show that your child is learning and observing his environment. A simple “no” is plenty to say in the moment; later you can later explain to your child that people come in all different shapes and sizes and that it is important to be respectful of the words he uses because he would not want to hurt someone’s feelings.
Comparing breast sizes. Again, yea! for the power of observation your child has. A simple, “why yes her boobs are larger” says quite enough in the moment. Afterwards, though, you might mention that it is inappropriate to discuss the “private parts of a body” in a large group of people. However, it is important to stress to your child that as his parent or close caregiver, he can ask any questions he wants about body parts to YOU. Children need to know they can ask the many questions that routinely pop into their heads to a safe person who will answer truthfully without condemnation.
Needing help in the bathroom. Potty training is tricky. Even once diapers are long gone wiping can be very difficult, and children usually have go at the most inopportune times. In the moment, simply moving in to help the child is the best solution. As you are in the bathroom with him, you can remind him that using the toilet is a private moment that should be kept private. You can suggest that if he feels that he has to poop or will need extra help, he can let you know this before he goes to the bathroom. However, sometimes children are still learning to read their body cues and he will not know until he has started to go. Coming up with a code word that he yells instead of “can you wipe my butt” may be the best answer.
Discussing the difference in skin color. While most adults know the subtlety of racial politeness, your child likely does not. As the adult next to the child who asks why a friend is “chocolate”, you may feel uncomfortable. However, most people truly understand that children are curious and like to communicate discoveries when they find them. Reply “Yes his skin is darker than yours is. You are very observant.” Then, when in private, you can bring the topic back up and tell him that you are very glad there are people who look different. Remind him that it would be awfully hard to tell people apart if we all looked the same.
Discussing ladies “time of the month.” Children often are very nosey when it comes to their caregiver’s using the bathroom. Women have a hard time “hiding” from their children during that time of the month. Because your child has probably asked questions and you have responded with something as close to the full truth as you can handle, it is likely your child will mention this conversation at a very improper moment. Perhaps you can avert this by also telling your child that you would like to keep these conversations between the two of you. Let him know that is is your private business and you love that he asks you questions about it, but he needs to do so quietly and with respect.
Mispronouncing one word for the other, like penis for peanut. Some words are just harder to say than others. It takes time for little ears to translate what they think they hear for what is actually said. Simply correct the mispronunciation without judgment or bringing attention to the fact that what was really said was hilarious. Laughing will only cause the child to either pronounce it wrong in the future on purpose or feel ashamed that you are laughing at him.
The bottom line is that you shouldn’t scold your child or bring attention to the mistake when he says things that are inappropriate in public. Later you can use the situation as a teachable moment and quietly correct or explain how you hope he will adjust his words in the future.