пятница, 14 сентября 2012 г.

KIDS CALL IT AS THEY SEE IT, EMBARRASSING OR NOT; WHAT CAN PARENTS DO WHEN THEIR LITTLE ONES BLURT OUT THE UNVARNISHED TRUTH?(CNY) - The Post-Standard (Syracuse, NY)

Byline: John Campanelli Newhouse News Service

It was a Saturday afternoon, almost closing time at the library, and the checkout line was growing. Waiting parents shifted stacks of books from one arm to the other while kids squirmed and struggled against the silence.

At the front of the line, alone, was a man of about 50. A big man. The Dewey Decimal System would put him among the social studies books, in the 300s.

Right behind him was a father, doing his best to keep two kids corralled. Pulling Dad's arm, the 4-year-old girl looked up and, for the first time, noticed the heavy guy in front of the them.

'Look, Peter!' she exclaimed to her older brother. 'That's a big butt!'

In the stillness of the library, the comment echoed a tiny bit, like, say, a locomotive crashing through the wall.

After a few seconds of mortified shock, the father, the blood now pooled in his legs, pulled the girl close and began preaching quietly to her. The other parents in line looked on and no doubt thought four words: Join the club, Pops.

From the time kids first learn to talk, we teach them to tell the truth. And they do, coming clean about stealing that cookie, breaking the picture frame or trying to flush a Granny Smith apple. As a bonus, they also tell the truth when someone has body odor, terrible acne or a big bottom.

It's one of those terrible things about being a parent -- like the music of the Wiggles -- that no one ever warns you about. Like it or not, your young kids are going to embarrass you.

Part of the reason is that children learn to talk around age 2, but they don't fully grasp the higher-level concept of empathy (putting yourself in someone else's shoes) until age 6 or 7, according to psychologist and parenting expert Dr. Sylvia Rimm.

'Teaching children empathy is appropriate at all ages,' she said, 'but expecting them to have empathy is not possible at that age. ... Their brain just isn't there yet.

'They just say what they see.'

Here are a few things to do if -- no ... when -- your kid says something inappropriate:

If the comment hurts someone, apologize, quickly and quietly.

'It falls to the parent -- not the child -- to offer the apology,' said Aaron Cooper, author and clinical psychologist at the Family Institute at Northwestern University. Make it sincere and perhaps add a 'kids say the darnedest things' roll of the eyes.

'Insisting that the child apologize rarely satisfies the offended adult and teaches children that apologies need not be heartfelt.'

Don't go ape.

'In the moment, when it happens, the first thing you don't want to do is overreact,' said Dunya Yaldoo Poltorak, a pediatric psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic's Center for Pediatric Behavioral Health. 'You don't want to be hollering at them in public. That's hard not to do.'

Poltorak recommends the tried, trusted -- and very difficult -- counting-to-10 technique.

Too much attention, even the negative kind, can result in a repeat performance.

Realize that this is a teaching opportunity.

Chet McDoniel, an author and motivational speaker in Texas, was born without arms (find out more about the amazing guy at chetmcdoniel.com). Kids often come up to him and blurt out: 'Hey! What happened to your arms?'

McDoniel, 28, who became a father in March, doesn't get offended.

'I often try to go directly to the child and open up a conversation with them,' he said via e-mail (he types with his feet). 'It may be that they have never seen someone like me, and often times, I am able to show them that I am a person, too, and that they do not have to be afraid of me just because I look different.'

Have a conversation with your child, at his or her level. Wait until you two are alone and then ask her whether she thinks the comment hurt the person's feelings or made them sad. Ask how she would feel if someone said that about her. And then talk about things we should not say out loud when someone is nearby.

Let it go.

Because you were so mortified when Junior sat on Santa's lap and told everyone that Kris Kringle had reindeer breath, you no doubt want to tell everyone about the scene.

Don't. At least not in front of your child.

Doing so will only reinforce the behavior, advises Poltorak.

'Deal with it in the moment, talk about it at bedtime, then leave it be and move on.'

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Ted Crow/Newhouse News House

WHAT CAN PARENTS DO WHEN THEIR LITTLE ONES BLURT OUT THE UNVARNISHED TRUTH?