Embarrassing Mom Moments (and How to Deal)

As a parent, it's no secret that your kid's brutal honesty can leave you running out the door, red-faced and mortified. Get our tips for dealing with these embarrassing mom moments.

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Teaching Moments

By Karla Lant

Let’s face it: Kids say the darndest things, and more often than not your child’s brutal honesty leaves you red-faced and stammering an apology to his unassuming victim. Before you opt to spend the rest of your kid’s adolescence under a rock, check out some strategies for dealing with these embarrassing mom situations in ways that will help your child acquire some important life skills.

Keep Your Kid's Age in Mind

If your child managed to get his entire lunch all himself, remember, he’s just a kid. “Our kids start off as little wild animals," Manhattan pediatrician Dr. Cheryl Wu says, "so a lot of behaviors they exhibit early on have a savage, animal-like quality to them—like taking things from each other, hitting each other, making a huge mess when they eat, and not caring if they're completely filthy.” Remember, this is something all parents have to deal with! As your child’s social maturity develops, basic rules will begin to click. In the interim, simply hand him a napkin and smile.

Be Patient

It's not so easy to explain to your child why telling him not to lie—unless he's pretending to like a hideous gift from grandma—is morally consistent. “We as parents need to teach our kids the finer points of social interactions with strangers and the value of white lies, "Dr. Wu explains. "This is a nuanced, complex process that takes lots of practice to perfect.” Bear with your kid as he starts to get a handle on sensitive social situations. Even if you’ve had to correct him for a similar faux pas in the past, keep your cool as you reiterate why what he said may not exactly be considered ideal.

Keep your Cool

If your child has just loudly announced how fat the person next to you is, the worst thing you can do is blow up and make the situation bigger than it needs to be. “Kids’ behaviors, especially in front of their parents, reflect the child’s desire for help in learning the proper skills,” says Dr. Finkelstein. “But this should be done with a kind hand, not one that is charged with embarrassment.” Apologize to the offended party, and then calmly explain to your child (in private) why his actions were inappropriate, without blaming or getting upset.

Teach Empathy

If your kid says something hurtful, ask him how it would feel if he were on the receiving end of a nasty comment. This is a particularly useful strategy when your kid declares that people from other countries look “weird” or “bad.” For the lesson to stick, it’s important to ask your child to put himself in the offended party’s shoes. Empathy, Dr. Wu says, "really is our strongest defense, and most kids naturally have it.”

Avoid Putting Kids Down

Of course kids should be made to understand that what they did was wrong. On the spur of the moment, putting your child down might seem like an effective way to accomplish this, but don’t let this impulse get the best of you. Dr. Finkelstein says that putting kids down “only serves to reduce their self-esteem over the long run and can lead to significant rebellious behavior down the road.” When you're angry, count to 10 before you blurt anything out. Then, when you do correct your child, try to take a more constructive approach that stresses how important it is to always think about the potential impact of his words.

Don’t Panic!

Think about how you react to situations where other people’s kids say inappropriate things. Do you make a scene? Of course not. You respond with tolerance and understanding because you know that children aren’t born knowing how to act like little ladies and gentlemen. Other adults are likely thinking the same thing, so don’t worry. Instead, focus your energy on teaching your child more appropriate ways to express himself.

Make It a Lesson

The best thing you can do with that moment when your child comments on someone's ugliness or funny smell? Turn it into a teaching moment—not just for your child, but for yourself. Dr. Finkelstein says, “These trying times are perfect opportunities for you to fine-tune your skills of patience, kindness and compassion. Remember, this is a process that unfolds over years. Single events, unless they create significant harm, are best kept in perspective.” In other words, relax!

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