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Compulsive correcting of others

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
I feel like I make this post about every 6 months, but remind me again, or give me new ideas, or commiserate.

DD (6) is so insanely obsessed with correcting people who are wrong and having everything be accurate. It's probably worst of all with her younger brother. Today she gave him a long treatise on how he doesn't wear his fireman hat correctly. It would be funny if it weren't so aggravating. It also drives him completely nutty, and leads to probably 80% of their arguments.

I can tell it really genuinely BOTHERS her when people aren't right about something. She just cannot rest till the misconception is dispelled. But it is a really unattractive trait. I have talked and talked to her about it till I am blue in the face, but it's like she almost can't help it.

Is there some way we can help her "exercise" this need to correct? Where does it come from? How can we help her relax and understand that it doesn't matter if someone has the lyrics to a song wrong? Can anyone suggest a fiction book about a character who does this? (This approach works well with her.)

Interestingly, she is not a perfectionist when it comes to her own work.
post #2 of 28


I've been wondering about this myself. DS feels a need to inform parents that bring their toddlers to the local zoo that the geese are not ducks. I don't know why people keep calling them ducks, they are geese, but if people want to call them ducks it isn't really any of our business. It certainly is impolite/socially awkward to go around correcting harmless mistakes people make.

I'm not sure exactly how to explain that it is impolite for DS to point out when others are wrong with out making him feel that being wrong is shameful or embarrassing.

Right now he gets away with it b/c he's an adorable and tiny 4 1/2 yo (he mostly does it to adults, so it falls into the general category of little kids are still working on learning manners) but in a few years people are just going to see him as an annoying know-it-all.
post #3 of 28
I tend to be a correcter. (I don't think I'm really obnoxious about it, but I could be kidding myself.) Reading this thread, I find myself thinking, Is it really that bad to tell someone geese aren't ducks, or what the real lyrics to a song are? Wouldn't it be an unreasonable overreaction for someone - especially an adult - to take offense at that? Wouldn't you want to know if you were wrong about something like that? And I imagine that may be just the way your DD feels. You may have a hard time convincing her that lots of people feel offended and annoyed and find it really unattractive when someone makes a factual correction, because that way of thinking may seem totally unreasonable and unlikely to her. It's not the way she would feel if someone corrected her about a fact. (Is it? How does she respond if you point out a factual mistake she's made?) It's hard to understand and be considerate of other points of view that are really different from your own even when you're an adult, and when you're 6, it's almost impossible to even believe in them. (At least it was for me. I'm sure there are kids with a lot more empathy and awareness than I had.)

I would still go ahead and talk to her, often, about how corrections can be perceived. (I sort of want to caution you to think some more about whether most people are really that bothered by factual corrections, or whether this might just be something you're unusually bothered by yourself. But I think it's entirely possible that you're completely right, and your DD and I are part of a tiny minority who just don't get it.) Especially with her younger brother, I think it's reasonable to treat it the way you would pushing or hitting. You can tell her it's just not acceptable to correct him about little things he does or says wrong, because it upsets him too much, and when she starts to do it, you can step in right away and stop it the way you would if she pushed him.
post #4 of 28
People do not like to be constantly corrected particularly when it's something that was an obvious mistake, a typo or simply not a big deal. If I know what the person means, why would you bother correcting them in your typical conversation? It's just an interruption and feels disrespectful. Correct someone when they are about to cut the wrong wire to defuse a bomb, don't correct them when they are telling you a cute story about their child lol.

My DD used to be really bad at this but her peers helped her figure out that it was not NOT appreciated in most cases. Some maturity and impluse control I think helped as well. Now, she bites her tongue and/or uses a tone and approach that is not threatening.

I will say, I rode her really hard about leaving her brother alone. DD had the benefit of figuring things out for herself... DS deserved the same freedom.
post #5 of 28
Well our society has gone totally overboard with the idea that everything is right or an "opinion" and as such you shouldn't correct people. Geese are geese not ducks, there is no opinion in that. So I don't know why anyone would be offended at it being pointed out but clearly they are. Young children sometimes get repetitive when they have learned something new but it's pretty normal so I wouldn't make a big deal about it.

Of course I'm one of those freaks that would like to know that I'm singing the lyrics to Benny and Jets wrong LOL and making an idiot of myself so I don't keep doing it.
post #6 of 28
DS was like this at 6, but has gotten better over the last few years. His MOST annoying correction was time. I'd look at the clock and say, "It's 3:30, time to go!" And he'd say, "No mom, it's 3:28! We have TWO more minutes!" ARGH!!! At almost 9, he's learned to control the urge to make everything exactly right... finally!
post #7 of 28
If you have found out, let me know and I'll work on myself before I start working on DS.
Seriously, I still have this insane urge to correct even though socially I know better now. I now offer what I perceive is the correct answer once, usually with a qualifier (that I feel a man wouldn't have to use, but that's another discussion) and then hold my tounge - but I still have to bite down on it pretty hard, I'm telling you.
I also tend to realize too late that this habit of DS may also be annoying to other people. We had an interesting altercation at the playground recently - not about facts, but about fiction, as it were! We were sitting in a wooden play "boat", I was breastfeeding DD and DS was playing we were Pippi Longstocking, her friends and her father on his ship going to the South Seas, setting sails and catching fish to eat every so often. Another little boy wanted to climb up too and DS told him that we had already left harbour. So I told him to please turn around back to the shore and let the little boy board too (making him let the other little boy just come in mid-journey would have resulted in a major meltdown, of course) and DS did so. The little boy started playing setting the sail at bow where DS had just been and DS wanted to interfere but stopped himself saying "I'll set the sail at stern then." (Proud mama moment, actually - good impulse control for him!). The little boy then moved to pull on the chain at bow again and this time DS moved in saying "no no it's enough" (meaning he was pretending the sails were all set now). At which the little boys grandfather shouted at him whether he thought that the playground was his and no one else could come play - and DS, confused, just tried to tell him, louder "but it's enough!" By the time this had bgone back and forth a bit I had realized that the man was genuinely upset and was trying to tell DS, with an eyeroll, to please just let the little boy play however he wanted, but being breastfeeding wasn't able to be loud enough for either of them to hear me. So eventually the grandfather shouted "we're not playing here anymore!", lifted the little boy out of the boat, shouted at me in what was probably meant to be irony "great upbringing!", shouted at DS "you're sassy!" and strode off in high dudgeon. Unlike me, DS wasn't even upset - in his mind, he'd just told the man what he thought he needed to know, as loud as he felt it necessary - while the man's reaction, who must have thought him extremely bad-mannered (granted, I think may have been from a culture that does not suffer little boys to talk back to older men at all, we did not share a first language) obviously wasn't even understandable to him.
I am afraid that like me, he will learn the hard way - getting in trouble with people, and at some point that will bother him. I hopw he will not lose friends over this (I know I have).
post #8 of 28
I thought age six when I read the subject line. It does tend to be really big around ages six and seven and it drives many teachers nuts. It may help to reframe it in your mind. This isn't always a one up competitiveness behavior but instead may be that he genuinely assumes other people would want to know the facts because he does. While it is typical I would focus on the difference between big and small problems and on the social downsides of being a know it all.
post #9 of 28
DD is just starting to get out of this habit...she had a stretch when she would correct her friends' grammar and it went really, really poorly once. DD thought she was helping, but of course the other kids didn't see it that way. We had to have many a talk about people learning at their own pace.
post #10 of 28
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Wouldn't it be an unreasonable overreaction for someone - especially an adult - to take offense at that? Wouldn't you want to know if you were wrong about something like that? And I imagine that may be just the way your DD feels. You may have a hard time convincing her that lots of people feel offended and annoyed and find it really unattractive when someone makes a factual correction, because that way of thinking may seem totally unreasonable and unlikely to her.
Yes. This is exactly it. She would want to know if she were wrong--doesn't everyone?

I do really ride her about it with her younger brother. I point out that when she was two, she was allowed to think the sky was green if she wanted to, and we would go along with her because it didn't matter. Etc. It doesn't seem to help. It's like she is allergic to inaccuracy.

On whether I am overreacting--maybe. I think my husband and I find the stuff with her brother especially grating because we are both the youngest of 3, so we KNOW how it is to be the youngest who is always on the receiving end of the correction. On the other hand, as my husband has pointed out, I work as an editor. I correct people for a living! (However, I don't point out errors in others' writing unless I'm being paid or have been asked to do it.)

Quote:
Correct someone when they are about to cut the wrong wire to defuse a bomb, don't correct them when they are telling you a cute story about their child
Ha. Yes, we have been talking about when it's important to correct and when it's not, but it's still very hard for her to distinguish.

Quote:
"It's 3:30, time to go!" And he'd say, "No mom, it's 3:28! We have TWO more minutes!" ARGH!!!
LOL--really. DD does this exact thing.
post #11 of 28
Quote:
She would want to know if she were wrong--doesn't everyone?
Does she really? I ask because the people I know that are compulsive correctors can dish it out but they actually don't take it well... particularly when it's ridiculous stuff like it being 3:28 when they said 3:30 and especially when it's unsolicited. Because others treat them more mannerly and they aren't GETTING corrected, they tend to assume they are always right. When DD was at her worst, we decided we'd spend a day treating her like she treated others. She knew about it in advance and yet by the 2nd correction, she was in tears. For her, correcting stemmed not only from a need for others to be right, but that SHE needed to be right in the eyes of others. It was one thing for her to see faults in others, an entirely different thing to be seen as faulty herself! Obviously, the experiment had to be cut short but it did get her to understand why others were taking it so poorly.
post #12 of 28
Thread Starter 
Well...if DD is sure she's right, she dislikes the correction. But if she isn't sure, or if she's not particularly attached to the question, she is fine with it. If you can prove her wrong, she accedes fairly gracefully. Usually.
post #13 of 28
My 4 year old is a "correcter". She corrects anyone from family to the dentist. At 3, she even corrected my dad (PG and a MAJOR correcter) on how he pronounced the word "zwei" in German and he's a native born German speaker.

I don't have advice though.
post #14 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by eepster View Post
DS feels a need to inform parents that bring their toddlers to the local zoo that the geese are not ducks.
Both DC do this exact same thing! We have a wildlife center with geese, and people call them ducks all the time. It bothers both of my children immensely, and they will go so far as to point out the sign that says "Watch out! Geese will bite during mating season" says "geese, not ducks."
post #15 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by whatsnextmom View Post
People do not like to be constantly corrected particularly when it's something that was an obvious mistake, a typo or simply not a big deal. If I know what the person means, why would you bother correcting them in your typical conversation? It's just an interruption and feels disrespectful. Correct someone when they are about to cut the wrong wire to defuse a bomb, don't correct them when they are telling you a cute story about their child lol.

My DD used to be really bad at this but her peers helped her figure out that it was not NOT appreciated in most cases. Some maturity and impluse control I think helped as well. Now, she bites her tongue and/or uses a tone and approach that is not threatening.

I will say, I rode her really hard about leaving her brother alone. DD had the benefit of figuring things out for herself... DS deserved the same freedom.
I agree with whatsnextmom... some explicit lessons (and practice?) on when it is appropriate to correct and when not? esp with the younger sibling, I would try my best to model and help her get enjoyment out of watching how he does things and figures them out. And truly, there is no "wrong" way to wear a fireman hat, as long as you are not an actual firefighter! (the difference between a costume and safety equipment...)

My DS (the older child) is not a major corrector... he finds his toddler sister funny a lot of the time when she is doing things "wrong". He has a sort of topsy-turvy sense of humor though, and we've always played a lot of silly spontaneous games where we contradict eachother for a joke.... or replace words with rhyming nonsense, etc. BTW this is just something that comes "naturally" to me and not an explicit parenting strategy (lol).

Along the lines of the tactic whatsnextmom tried, where they decided to "correct" their DD but then had to cut it short... maybe there are playful ways to do something similar? You say its 3 and time to go, she says, its 2:58, I have 2 more minutes, you answer that actually its 5:28 and time for dinner... respond to a "correction" with an outrageously "wrong" response? Make it into something more of a game? Dunno if your DD would go for it but its the sort of thing my DS thinks is really funny, and it might help to disrupt the seemingly compulsive part of it by pointing out to her when she is doing it?
post #16 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by loraxc View Post

Is there some way we can help her "exercise" this need to correct?
I think you mean "exorcise" the need to correct.

post #17 of 28
I tell my older child that if I need help parenting my younger child, I'll ask for it. At a certain point, endlessly lecturing and correcting a younger sibling is a kind of bullying, so I'm pretty strict.

If the younger child decides to argue a point with his older sister, then it becomes a free-for-all, so they're on their own at that point. The kids are free to discuss and debate, but not argue or bully.

If it were my child correcting me, I'd lose my temper. I see no reason to protect children from the emotional response they cause in others if they act obnoxiously. It's possible to be technically correct and yet still in the wrong.
post #18 of 28
Thread Starter 
Quote:
If it were my child correcting me, I'd lose my temper.
Really? Always? What if you were genuinely wrong? Sometimes--albeit not terribly often--her corrections are genuinely helpful. Like, maybe 10-25% of the time?

For instance, she always knows the date, even when I don't.

Generally we tell her that if someone's error is going to hurt someone or cause a major problem, it's okay to correct. But of course, her idea of this doesn't necessarily jive with ours.
post #19 of 28
No, no, not every time. I'm not talking about blowing my stack or anything. I just mean that when I say, "It's three o'clock." and it's actually five minutes to three and the child points that out with a subtle, "You're wrong Mommy! It's really two fifty five! You're totally wrong!" then I would respond with something like, "Kiddo, the estimate is the only thing I'm looking for right now, and your tone of voice is not respectful." I don't think we need to hide it from our children when they're working that last nerve through their inexperience. Gifted kids, especially, are ready to start learning that the content of what they say is only the first half of communication.
post #20 of 28
Thread Starter 
Oh, I wouldn't call that losing your temper! That seems very normal and appropriate.

This came up again yesterday, and I told DD that in a way she was bullying her brother. She'd never been told that before, and she knows it's absolutely not okay to bully. She started crying. "But I can't help it! I was just born this way! It's the way I was born!" I really did feel a little bad for her. This is going to be a long road.
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