Swapna Sundari’s six-year-old marched up to an overweight gentleman at a grocery store and innocently enquired if he was pregnant with 'twin babies'. The young mother was torn between the urge to laugh and the wish to be swallowed by an alien. Like Sundari, pretty much every parent of a young child dreads the day his/her tender offspring will commit or utter a faux pas that would leave them and the hapless victims swimming in a sea of embarrassment. ParentCircle talks to four parents about the most embarrassing situations they’ve found themselves in, courtesy their children.
Kids say the darndest things... err, or not. Stunned parents try to hide themselves from the crowd, laughing in embarrassment on lighter occasions and reacting with a measured approach on the serious ones.
On one occasion, I could not attend my nine-year-old son’s PTA meeting because I fell ill and was on medications. My wife went instead. Apparently, my son was seen explaining to his teacher, “My poor father passed out from all the drugs.”
–Vinnie Jose, Businessman
My son picked a very strange habit from my brother. He would ask every guest: ‘Why are you here? How long will you be staying? When will you leave?’ He would ask this the moment he opened the door! Guests used to be stunned initially, but then would realise he was asking these questions because he wanted to make sure they stayed for as long as possible.
– Tina Vincent, Designer
We were relaxing at a tiny cafe in Italy after a long day of sightseeing. The lady who came to take our order had some facial hair. While we were placing our order, my seven-year-old daughter asked the lady, “Are you a man or a woman?” To make matters worse, she continued, “Anyway, you need to grow your moustache some more, like daddy’s, and then it’ll look much better.” We thought we were going to spend the night behind bars, but luckily the owner didn’t take the matter too seriously. Lucky escape!
– Pavan K, Businessman
My six-year-old daughter and I were on the metro recently, and at one of the stations, a lady with artificial limbs got in. My little one marched up to the woman and asked her, “Are you a robot? Do you have a real heart?” It was a very painful experience and made me realise I need to immediately start talking about sensitive issues with my children.
– Madhu Krishna, Homemaker
There's a way out of the crisis
What would you do when your child says embarrassing things in public?
Here are three ways to help avoid such situations.
The first step is to understand that your child is curious. He does not mean to be funny when he makes a remark about the ‘pregnant’ man he sees in the store. The little one is just being curious and stretching his imagination. It’s similar to him thinking that he can put on a cape and fly like superman!
Now that you know why children sometimes ask embarrassing questions, getting angry or shouting at your child is definitely not the option! At the same time, rolling over in laughter is not the right way to address it. Cringing in embarrassment isn’t going to help either. Unless you teach your child, he will just keep giving you many such ‘risky moments!’ So, what do you do? Here are three ways to address the problem:
I recommend that you start talking to your toddler about ‘empathy’. Research has proven that children as young as two can be taught to be sensitive to others. Ask your child to ‘put himself in the other person’s shoes’. Storytelling is a great way to do this.
If your child makes a comment about his grandfather’s bald patch or your friend’s artificial limb, she is not being mean or rude, and the ‘recipients’ of his comments know that too! Use this as an opportunity to talk to your child about diversity. Provide opportunities for your child to experience diversity – race, disability, religion. If you do not have access to such opportunities, then show him pictures and talk about the subject. Also, tell your child that the next time he has such thoughts or questions when you are in a public place, he should first share this ‘unfiltered’ thought with you in a ‘soft ’ voice, as that is the polite thing to do. Remind him of ‘empathy’ skills. Make sure you address your child’s question as otherwise he may be tempted to shout it out!
Apologise and Smile
That’s the easy way out of any crisis. If your little angel says something devilish, meet the victim and apologise on your child’s behalf. Just a simple apology would do. Try not to fumble or apologise profusely as that would only make it a bigger deal. In all probability, that person has heard something like this before and would have the understanding and grace to look beyond it.
Aparna Samuel Balasundaram – is an award winning Psychotherapist, Parent and Child Expert, with 10 years of experience in the USA.
She is the Founder of Life Skills Experts that enables parents and teachers to raise happy, confident and successful children. www.LifeSkillsExperts.com
She is also the Founder of ‘A Flourishing Me’, that offers contemporary Counselling and Parent and Life Coaching [www.AFlourishing.me]