Life is certainly never dull when you have toddlers and the unintentionally rude things they say and do ensures both endless hilarity and humiliation galore.
I am a proud mum to two little people: 20-month-old and three-year-old daughters. They’re endless fun, and hard work at once, but it’s shopping trips that can leave me especially embarrassed.
Just this week, I had to explain to my eldest why it wasn’t cool to loudly ask me at the supermarket aisle: “Why is the man (a female checkout operator with a crew cut) wearing lipstick?” Shudder!
Then, my one-year-old sufficiently disgraced herself (and me) at a play centre on the weekend by screaming “Mermaid!” every time she laid eyes on a little redhead who did actually closely resemble a mini Ariel in her new obsession: The Little Mermaid.
The poor little redhead was suitably terrified of my tiny banshee, who then exacerbated the situation by chasing her around for hugs. Oh the vast and infinite horror. And the fun didn’t end there: my feisty, little one-year-old then started screaming “Mine!” and pushing others off her favourite animal toy, once redhead and her mum had fled the building.
So, how on earth do we teach our toddlers sensitivity and tact? And why does it come naturally to some kids and not others?
Child experts say to gently explain to your toddler how certain involuntarily rude statements and behaviours affect others in the hope they’ll come to understand why it’s socially unacceptable. After all, your little tykes are busy testing out their social and language skills.
In addition, toddlers are also renowned for their total lack of self-control and are yet to fully develop a sense of empathy and understanding that people’s feelings can be hurt by unkind, tactless remarks.
Psychologists call this “theory of mind” which is where children come to realise that other people have thoughts and feelings different to their own.
And the age at which they learn varies greatly, depending on the social maturity of the child.
Daycare, which often gets undue bad press, actually encourages this important development of social skills and empathy towards others as children interact and feelings are inevitably hurt.
Another recent clanger, was when my three-year-old asked me, thankfully, within the safety of our own home: “Why is Jacinta (her new kindy teacher) a man?” For the record, Jacinta is most definitely not a man, just a rather voluptuous woman.
So, it seems yet another important and essential parental responsibility is encouraging toddlers to have inquiring minds – my girls ask endless questions, sigh – while also educating them about what’s appropriate conversation and what’s not.
Child experts say not to scold your child for his/her honesty, call him/her rude, or discourage them from speaking their minds. Instead, you could try explaining that words are powerful: they can make people both happy and sad.
I think it’s also, in part, that fun parental lesson about teaching toddlers what constitutes good manners; encouraging kids to be kind and respectful, by example. And like all toddler-related matters, it’ll take every ounce of your patience and tolerance, ladies (at least it does me).
Now, if we can just teach our husbands to similarly always think before they speak…
Images, in order, via www.sheknows.com.au, www.news.com.au and research.fuseink.com.