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4 Ways Our Kids Embarrass Us (And What to Do About It)

Your toddler’s howling in the supermarket cookie aisle. Your teen told Aunt Betty she doesn’t like her birthday present. Your 10-year-old just let rip a swear word you didn’t even know he knew—in public. What now?

Your response is an opportunity to teach important lessons about respect, manners, and self-control. Here’s how to handle four common embarrassing childhood situations:

1. Your child loses her temper or swears: Try a gentle reminder. Don’t lose your own temper! Try a firm, soft-spoken reminder that tells your child what you expect, without yelling, nagging, or shaming him or her in public. Reminders can be just a word or two. If your child is quarreling with a sibling or friend, you might just say, “Discussing.” If he’s using inappropriate language, your reminder might be “Talking nicely.”

If your child needs more direction, take him or her aside for a quiet conversation. Be direct and firm, but not angry or demanding—that can backfire by leading a child to feel angry and defiant.

2. Your toddler or young child is screaming: Encourage them to use their words. Since something genuinely may be wrong, foster communication by asking your child to calmly tell you what’s the matter, instead of just telling him or her to be quiet. Help younger children find words to express themselves.

3. Your young child makes comments about another person’s appearance or other differences: Seize a teachable moment. Explain matter-of-factly that everyone is different, yet equal. How much detail you use will depend on your child’s age. Addressing questions and comments openly and without embarrassment on your part sends a powerful message about accepting diversity. So try a gentle challenge—“What made you say that?”—if a child’s comments are negative or judgmental.

4. Your child isn’t gracious: Give him or her a script. Reinforce good manners before a gift-filled celebration. Talk about why politeness and respect are important, even if you don’t love the bunny pajamas from Aunt Betty. Suggest a way to handle it, such as saying “Thank you” and commenting on something you do like about the present. Those pajamas look like they’ll be warm on a cold winter’s night!








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