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Out of the Mouth of Babes: Preventing Embarrassing Toddler Moments

Katlyn Joy |22, December 2014


It's an inevitable fact of life that your children will say some really embarrassing things in public. However, to minimize the risk and damage of such occurrences, you need to think ahead.

Babies and toddlers have big ears.

If you don't want your children saying it, don't say it in front of your child. Don't assume they aren't listening, or are too young to remember or repeat it. They are learning all their manners and mannerisms from soaking it up from you. If you don't want to have your child repeat a string of four-letter-words capable of making a pirate blush, then for goodness sake, don't say it around them. A friend of mine learned this the hardest way. Her toddler daughter had been exposed to her father's rather salty language and decided to try out the expletives in church, when speaking to the pastor's wife. My friend was absolutely mortified.

Don't have two sets of rules; one for home and one for out in public.

When kids are older they can internalize such distinctions, but little ones will not. If it's cute at home, they will assume it's cute in the checkout aisle or at Grandma's. Case in point; trudging along in the department store, I heard a little boy chuckle and point to his dad, saying, "You farted!" right as I turned the corner. Our eyes locked and the father appeared stuck. I shrugged and laughed, "What can you do?"

Be aware that what you share with your child, your child will share with the world.

If you don't want your husband to know that you were steaming that he came home an hour late, don't have an open tirade while your little one is around. If you want to explain the birds and bees, realize your child will feel like some kind of knowledge-holder and will feel compelled to explain this new information with the entire preschool class. Toddlers and secrets do not coexist.

Teach honesty with kindness.

Most toddlers are very honest, unless wishing to avoid a punishment. Therefore, they have no qualms about telling the principal she has a big nose, or that the new dish your sister brought over tasted like feet. Try to explain that while some things may be true, they may not need told. Explain about feelings and how it's important to think about how words make others feel. It won't happen overnight, however.

Consider the consequences of sharing some info with your child.

What will your child do with the info? For instance, when my first son was a toddler, we decided to be real responsible grown ups and teach him the proper terms for the human anatomy. Sounded great until when purchasing his first set of big boy underwear, he shared his anatomical knowledge with the grocery clerk, telling her he has a penis and that girls have vaginas. It was an awkward moment indeed, and I wished I had just limited it to a pee pee at that point.

Don't Overreact

If the worst happens, and your child spills a secret, says something impolite or crude, don't overreact. It will confuse your child and it won't alleviate any of the embarrassment. Just explain calmly later what a better way to handle the situation would have been. Besides, with some kids getting a big reaction is a motivation to try it out again soon.

Realize your child won't be little and adorable forever.

So don't let them continue to say things the wrong way, simply because it's cute, or allow them to sass because it's funny now. It will most definitely not be funny when they are nine or twelve. Consequences for backtalk should begin whenever backtalk begins. Letting it go will allow it to grow into an unwieldy problem later.

Practice talking the way you want your child to talk.

Listen to people, don't overtalk them. Let your speech be honest but kind and your language G rated.

Of course there will be times when you cannot stifle a giggle at your little one's expressions. When my daughter burst into the living room where we had guests, after not feeling so well I wasn't prepared for what she said.

"Mommy, come here! My butt threw up!" It was her first bout with a stomach bug. I felt a bit sheepish, but the guests thought it was hilarious, and a clever way of saying diarrhea. What can you do?

Related Articles

How to Keep Your Toddler from Getting Into Everything!

How to Say "No!" to Your Adorable Toddler

When Your Toddler Is a Picky Eater

Transitioning from Crib to Toddler Bed

Tips for Traveling With Your Toddler


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