Your 5-year-old has started voicing his every observation, even the embarrassing ones. (“Mom! That man’s nose is huge!”) How do you respond?
Advice from parents
(Try saying) “We all have parts that are different shapes and sizes. His nose is that size because it’s his nose. Your nose is this size because it’s your nose. It’s a good thing we have noses so we can smell and sneeze.” And you have just redirected the subject without reprimand.
– Paula Glenn
I think asking them to save those remarks for the car is justified and can be a good learning experience for waiting for the appropriate time to make remarks. You can explain the man cannot help the size of his nose and he probably already knows he has a large one. I would emphasize the person’s feelings and how it is not polite to point out things when you don’t know the person.
– Marie Grass Amenta
Advice from experts
If your reflex is to scold, stop yourself.
“Your priority is your child,” said Betsy Brown Braun, author of the upcoming “You’re Not the Boss of Me.”
“You don’t want to discourage his noticing things and making comments – appropriate comments. This is a classic teachable moment,” she said. “First, you get down on your child’s level, and in a very quiet voice, you say, ‘You’re right. That man’s nose is a different size than you’ve seen. I want to talk to you about it after we’re done at the store.'”
Then, Braun continued, “When you get to a quiet place, you say, ‘Did you notice I used a quiet voice in the store? I don’t know how that man feels about his nose. I don’t know if he likes people talking about his nose. So I didn’t want to say anything that might hurt his feelings or make him uncomfortable.'”
Next, Braun said, you’ve got to address the nose. She suggested saying something like this: “Noses come in lots of shapes and sizes. Some turn up, some turn down, some are big, some are small. Maybe that man feels fine about his nose; maybe he doesn’t. It’s great that you’re noticing it, but he might not like us talking about it out loud.”‘
And should you apologize to the man with the much-discussed nose?
“Look right at the person and say, ‘I’m so sorry. Steven is 5 years old and he’s just learning the lessons of polite behavior. I hope he didn’t offend you.”‘
Remember, also, that words don’t carry the same baggage for kids that they do for adults.
“If he comments, ‘That lady is really fat,’ from where he sits fat may not be laced with any judgment,” Braun said. “It’s an observation.”
Still, it’s an observation that’s bound to hurt some feelings, so Braun recommends saying the following:
“You know, you’re right. That lady was big. But fat is a word we don’t use when we’re describing how somebody looks because that word hurts people’s feelings. There are some words we use to describe things – we might get a big, fat peach at the market. But we don’t use the word fat to describe people. It isn’t kind.”‘
Now, you’ve validated your child’s budding observation skills, introduced a lesson in diversity and reinforced a lesson in good manners.