Teaching kids about appropriate comments to make in public? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 11-06-2012, 04:40 PM - Thread Starter
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DS is 3.5 and often makes interesting observations or asks questions that could make others uncomfortable or self-conscious. It seems to happen all the time.

Two incidents, just from today, both in public places around strangers:

"Mama, look, that guy is totally bald, he doesn't have ANY hair on his head!"
For this one, the guy (fortunately!) didn't appear to hear him, so I just explained that we don't point out things like that because it might make the person uncomfortable, but he can always talk to me about it later when we're alone.

The other comment:

"Why is that guy in a wheelchair?"
We were already talking to this guy and he was very friendly, so I just kind of gestured to him to answer & he did ("My foot has a boo-boo.") We've talked about wheelchairs many times but he wants to know why this SPECIFIC man was in a wheelchair, not the possible reasons.

I'm not sure how to handle this in a broader sense. I welcome his curiosity & want to help him understand everything around him... but I don't want to make anyone upset. I don't know that DS has any concept of embarrassment or self-consciousness (I don't know if that's because of his age or his social/emotional issues) so he really can't relate when I try to explain that some people may feel uncomfortable with his comments. I also don't really buy into the whole silence around differences, I feel like it contributes to a feeling that being different is somehow shameful or bad. And part of me feels like I'm teaching him to talk about people behind their backs if I tell him to ask me later. Am I making sense? How do you handle these kinds of things, both in the moment & afterwards?

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#2 of 6 Old 11-06-2012, 04:52 PM
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My 6yo makes obvious statements like this, too. I tend to just go along with it.


"You are right, he is bald. Do you think he shaves his head like Daddy or Uncle? Maybe he is sick, remember when I had cancer and all my hair fell out? And remember we should not point at people, that is not nice."


"I'm not sure why he is in a wheelchair. What do you think? Should we go ask him? Maybe if we ask nicely he will tell us what happened. Remember when Auntie was very sick and it was hard for her to walk and she used a wheelchair?"


Like you said, my boy is curious. He wants to know. And he asks questions about EVERYTHING and EVERYONE, so ignoring him or having him wait doesn't work. The question will just come back. lol So I try to answer in the moment, as gently as I can, with grace. 

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#3 of 6 Old 11-06-2012, 08:36 PM
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well, to the question of why is someone in a wheelchair, the obvious answer is "wheelchairs help people get around when they have trouble walking." non judgmental.

talk to him privately about why people don't like having their differences pointed out to them. an obvious answer might be that most people like to feel like they belong, and they do! it's ok to notice people's differences -- we all have differences -- but it's best to not talk about them in public. 

if you want to say hi to that person, let's go! 

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#4 of 6 Old 11-08-2012, 08:21 PM
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My 6 yr old ds is currently obsessed with the fact that African Americans are referred to as "black" when really they look more "brown". He feels the need to tell every African American we come across "people call you black but really your brown." Luckily no one has been offended and I just act like it's no big deal- I usually say something like "but no matter what color we are on the OUTSIDE, we are all the same on the INSIDE, right?" And everyone just nods and we say have a good day. Honestly it's a bit mortifying but I've realized when I act like he hasn't said anything wrong, nobody acts like he did either. And then the minute we're alone I remind him that we shouldn't say anything to other people about how they look unless we want to tell them that we like something about it. Hopefully he'll remember that someday- soon.
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#5 of 6 Old 11-08-2012, 11:38 PM
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These are all normal questions. They are honest questions. As kids get older, they learn to filter, to put on a fake front, whatever you want to call it. I wish we adults had LESS filters. I don't mean saying "oh, your dress is so ugly" but when asked, "no, I don't particularly like the pattern of your dress, it washes you out."

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#6 of 6 Old 11-09-2012, 04:06 AM
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crunchy keep on reiterating. the thing with 3 year olds is that - keep repeating what you want them to hear, but dont quite expect them to get it yet and stop asking. by keeping on repeating yourself you are helping him learn society expectations. what is ok adn what is not ok to ask. by the time he gets older he will get it. dont expect him to get it now.


and most of those people - understand. 


you are right. he has no concept of embarrassment or self-consciousness because it is developing. he is too young to have it. through his questioning and your answer of explanation and what question is appropriate or not will help him develop that knowledge. 


he is being right on mama. we have all walked in your shoes. and you are doing the right thing. 


with the wheelchair specific question - perhaps you can tell him how some questions while ok are still inappropriate to ask. you bring in the understanding - just coz you have a question, is it worth asking if by any chance you fear hurt feelings. i think that's a huge answer and a huge concept for him to get. by doing this you are also introducing the concept that all questions dont have answers. 

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