3-4 YEARS OLD Why does your fouryear-old say and do the most em­bar­rass­ing things?

Why does your four-year-old say and do the most em­bar­rass­ing things? DR RICHARD C. WOOLF­SON ex­plains why you shouldn’t over­re­act when that hap­pens.

Young Parents (Singapore) - - Contents -

Your four-year-old has an amaz­ing abil­ity to em­bar­rass you by ei­ther say­ing or do­ing ex­actly what’s on his mind.

In his naivete, he says and does what he thinks, not be­cause he want to be cheeky or abu­sive, but sim­ply be­cause he hasn’t learnt the so­cial graces nec­es­sary to pro­tect other peo­ple’s feel­ings and he is very im­pul­sive. Here are com­mon em­bar­rass­ing mo­ments:

The em­bar­rass­ing ques­tion

You may be caught com­pletely off-guard in the su­per­mar­ket when your kid asks in a gen­uinely in­ter­ested voice – which is loud enough for every­one to hear – “Why is that man so fat?”

As far as your child is con­cerned, his ques­tion is sen­si­ble. But to you, his ques­tion is very awk­ward.

The em­bar­rass­ing stare

When you are in the shop­ping mall, your child sees some­one with a vis­i­ble dis­abil­ity. Drawn by his nat­u­ral cu­rios­ity, he stares un­flinch­ing at that per­son un­til they pass each other.

You can see that he is star­ing – and that the per­son with dis­abil­ity knows she is be­ing peered at – but you can’t stop him from look­ing with­out mak­ing a pub­lic scene.

The em­bar­rass­ing tantrum

When your preschooler can’t get what he wants – es­pe­cially if he is with you on a bor­ing and tir­ing food-shop­ping ex­pe­di­tion – he can eas­ily have a melt­down.

Un­af­fected by his sur­round­ing, he rages un­con­trol­lably in full view of the other shop­pers, who turn around and watch how you han­dle the sit­u­a­tion.

The em­bar­rass­ing gift

Your child acts im­pul­sively, of­ten with­out think­ing. So when Grandma brings him a birth­day present that he doesn’t like, he im­me­di­ately an­nounces: “I don’t want it.”

He didn’t mean to em­bar­rass you, and he cer­tainly didn’t in­tend to up­set his grand­mother, but that is the ef­fect his im­pul­sive re­ac­tion has on oth­ers.

Caught in any of those em­bar­rass­ing mo­ments, your first re­ac­tion might be to re­spond as though it was an adult who had made the re­mark.

For in­stance, you might rep­ri­mand your four-yearold fu­ri­ously and en­sure he is se­verely pun­ished for his com­ments or be­hav­iour. It’s best not to over­re­act, how­ever.

In­stead, ad­dress the wronged party. Bear in mind that most peo­ple have had chil­dren them­selves, so chances are, they have al­ready ex­pe­ri­enced the em­bar­rass­ing faux pas with their child that you are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing now.

If you are sure that the wronged party defi­nitely heard what your kid said, or saw what he did, give a straight­for­ward “sorry” on be­half of your child, then move away. Dam­age lim­i­ta­tion is most ef­fec­tive when few words are spo­ken.

Once the im­me­di­ate cri­sis is over, ex­plain to your child why he shouldn’t have said or done what he did. Don’t ex­pect him to un­der­stand im­me­di­ately.

Af­ter all, you have prob­a­bly en­cour­aged him to be hon­est at all times, and you would be hor­ri­fied if he ever lied to you. His in­no­cent mind isn’t yet able to make the fine dis­tinc­tion be­tween hon­esty and the jus­ti­fi­able con­ceal­ment of the truth in or­der to pro­tect oth­ers from hurt.

En­cour­age your child’s em­pa­thy and sensitivity. For in­stance, ask him to imag­ine that he has a huge, spotty nose which makes him look very ugly. Then get him to pic­ture that he is at the mall with you, and that all the other shop­pers stare and laugh at him.

Dis­cuss how he would feel in that sit­u­a­tion. Would he like it? This strat­egy helps de­velop your child’s aware­ness that other peo­ple have feel­ings, too.

Putting him in the in­jured party’s shoes is a much more ef­fec­tive learn­ing process than giv­ing him a sharp telling-off or re­mov­ing sweets and toys as a pun­ish­ment. Em­pha­sise that it is bet­ter to say or do noth­ing than some­thing which might up­set some­one.

Putting him in the in­jured party’s shoes is a much more ef­fec­tive learn­ing process than giv­ing him a sharp telling-off.

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