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MomTalk.com November 19, 2017:   The women's magazine for moms about children, family, health, home, fashion, careers, marriage & more


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Cleanup on Aisle Two

aisle2.jpg



By Jenny Runkel


We've all been there. It usually occurs at the most inopportune moments and somehow, the room always quiets just before it happens. Not following me? Listen in on a little dialogue I overheard yesterday at the grocery store and you'll be nodding your head along with the rest of us in no time.


"Mommy?"


"Umm Hmmm?"


"I thought that only men's should have mustaches, but that lady right there has a one too - and she also has lots and lots of black hairs sticking out of her chin! How come is that?"


Ah, children. The picture of innocence. The hope for tomorrow. The cause of our heartburn. If your children haven't popped off with one of these embarrassing moments, then they haven't learned to talk yet. This week, we're going to take a look at how to handle these moments so that you don't end up making things even worse.


Back to the store... As the mother wheeled around with her eyes as wide as saucers, she actually bumped carts with the poor woman in need of a wax. Cue the awkward silence and the hasty getaway. She snatched her child and whisked him over to aisle 2 where she thought she was out of earshot. Then she went ballistic.


Everyone from paper goods to canned fruit could hear her angry rebuke, "Jason! You don't say things like that! You have absolutely no self control! You are always doing things like this - just like the fat man at the movies last night. Yes, I saw her mustache! I know, it was there - you're just not supposed to say those things out loud! Do you have any idea how you've embarrassed me!?!?!?"


I am not going to lie... I could totally identify with this mother's misguided attempts to remedy the situation. You would think that my ScreamFree Radar would be off the chart, but something in me felt that familiar sting and heat of embarrassment climbing up the back of my neck. I have been in situations where my child has said or done something egregiously inappropriate. And I have heard the nagging, whispering voices telling me that I must be a bad parent because of that.


It's this last part that gets us into trouble. When we listen to those voices and we take things personally, we lose the ability to act with principle. And that's what happened to this mom. Here's the truth of the matter:


Many of believe that we are responsible for the actions and behavior of our children. This leads us to be defensive and guarded, and it actually hinders the process of our children learning from their mistakes.


If Jason's mom had been able to feel the embarrassment of the moment and yet maintain her composure, it could have been a much better scene. She could have said to the mustachioed madam, "Well, that's embarrassing. I hope you weren't hurt by that remark." And then, at a later time when she had the benefit of perspective, she could have given Jason a primer about tact. But at that moment, she was unable to do that. She was so busy feeling the shame for Jason and worrying about her own humiliation that she didn't have the bandwidth to think twice about how her actions were wreaking even more havoc. Yes, what Jason said was rude. Yes, it should be addressed. But it doesn't point to a flaw in his character or in her parenting skills. It doesn't mean that he is hard hearted and mean-spirited. It doesn't mean that mom has failed as a parent.


For the most part, kids are just naturally curious and they do embarrassing things. They want to know about how things work and why people look different. There's nothing at all wrong with that. The more we can normalize their questions and position ourselves as a resource to answer them early and often, the better off we'll be. But what typically happens is that we make bigger fools of ourselves thanks to our lack of poise than they could ever make of us.


I know it's frustrating. There is nothing you can do to guarantee that your child won't say something inappropriate. But you can control how you respond. If you can learn to separate yourself from your child's comments, and realize that his awkward question isn't an indictment of your personal character (or his), you'll be in a good position to deal with it positively.


Learning to be responsible to your child for your behavior rather than responsible for your child and what they say is the key. In the pause that this new belief will allow, watch the anxiety slide away from you. Then ask yourself, "How do I want to respond to this? How would I want to be treated if I were on the other end of this exchange?" Those are pretty good questions to ask yourself now, before the heat of the moment arrives. Because as any parent can tell you, you will find yourself in this situation. There will be plenty of times that we have to do a little "cleanup on aisle 2" and that's ok. Life with kids isn't always clean and neat. In fact, sometimes it can get a little hairy.


Editor's note: For the record, the kid was right. Only men should have mustaches.

Jenny Runkel, wife of Hal and ScreamFree mom of Hannah and Brandon, has been powerfully influencing and forming children and families for ten years. She has worked with kids of all ages from preschoolers in church settings to teenagers in classrooms. Cofounder of ScreamFree, Jenny has worked side-by-side with Hal in creating and refining the ScreamFree approach to relationships, and now joins him in writing, developing, and delivering the life-changing material to audiences nationwide. Jenny is also part of the eHarmony parenting team. For more information, visit ScreamFree.



Categories: Toddlers, Pre-Schoolers, School-Age, Children, Feature Stories,

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