Has your child ever said or done something completely inappropriate, ie ‘Look at that man’s fat tummy, mummy!’– making you feel like crawling into a dark corner and hiding?
Nigel Latta, author of Politically Incorrect Parenting (HarperCollins), says it’s something that happens to almost every parent. “Parents always fall into the position of thinking it’s something they’ve done wrong,” he says. “But kids are only just learning to talk and they don’t put the brakes on.” Here’s Nigel’s advice on those cringe-worthy kid moments.
“Mummy, look at her fat tummy”
It’s that ‘hide your head’ moment when your child yells a personal insult to a complete stranger. Nigel says it’s a good opportunity to explain that they shouldn’t always say what’s in your head. “It’s one of those times when you tell them that they can hurt other people’s feelings,” he explains. “Also remember that people are pretty understanding about the fact that kids blurt things out – the only people who get offended are the ones who don’t have kids.”
If your pre-schooler strips off and starts running up and down a shopping plaza (as mine did, albeit on a pedestrian area by the seaside – cue mum with red face), Nigel says that it’s not something to get embarrassed about. “That’s a moral statement of how we approach nudity,” he says. “People get so wound up about children taking their clothes off, but it’s all about kids being kids.”
Shouting ‘no’ to a doctor or policeman
Completely different, however, is a child refusing to do something that a parent or person in authority is asking them to do. “After the age of three, saying ‘I’m not going to do it’ is an important battle,” advises Nigel, saying it’s an instrumental moment between parent and child. “Make sure you fight the battle at three rather than 13, so they understand early on that life is pretty good if they do what they’re told, and they are stuck on their own in their room if they don’t.” He adds to forget the naughty chair, as it involves forcing a child to stay in one spot, and send them to their room for time out on their own, instead.
Picking their nose in a restaurant
Nigel says teaching your child how to sit nicely when out for dinner is also important – although start somewhere low-key rather than a hatted restaurant. “It’s really important to eat properly and sit quietly in a restaurant. Decide what’s important to you and teach them that’s how to behave,” he explains. “When we went through this, we started off at food halls – it’s less stressful and younger children can crawl off if necessary. If they fight or bicker, take them out to the car for time out, while you stand outside. They’ll soon see that life is boring if they behave badly, but if they sit nicely, they’ll get to go out and do this stuff with you.”
The ‘wee, poo’ phase
Shouting ‘you’ve got a pooey head’ was a delightful phrase favoured by my four-year-old. Nigel says don’t give them a reaction, or they’ll enjoy saying it even more. “At this age, their humour is toilet humour, they just find it hilariously funny. Tread a careful line, as they’ll do it more if they get a reaction. That’s until it gets painful and annoying to other people – they need to stop if they become too noisy and annoying. No-one else should have to suffer my kids’ bad behaviour.”
This article was originally written by Joanna Bounds for our sister site Kidspot Australia.