We’ve all shared our kids’ funny quirks. But sometimes we can unintentionally hurt them. Here’s why laughing at kids can be hurtful.
A few weeks ago, I told my family a cute and funny story about my toddler—and ended up feeling terrible.
With my toddler out of earshot, I shared how he said “puddle”—but in a Filipino accent. He was so cute and so funny… except he wasn’t making a joke. And he probably wouldn’t appreciate it if my family brought it up to him.
After realizing my mistake, I followed with, “Oh, but don’t mention it to him. I don’t want him to get embarrassed or think I’m making fun of him.”
The disclaimer may have saved my son public embarrassment, but the damage was done: I was laughing at my toddler’s expense.
“I don’t know why I felt so bad about telling something so cute about him,” I told my husband later that night. “Should parents not tell others the cute and funny things their kids do?”
After all, I adore kid stories. Especially when they use wrong grammar, mispronounce words or reveal their limited knowledge about the world, a lá Kids Say the Darnest Things. But then I thought, “Just because it’s funny to us, does that make it okay to blab it to other people?”
How sharing funny stories and laughing at kids can be hurtful
When, then, would it be appropriate for parents to share their kids’ cuteness? I decided on two criteria:
- If my toddler himself finds it hilarious, then he probably won’t be bothered if I share it with others, or
- If he isn’t likely to feel hurt or embarrassed if he found out other people knew.
My toddler actually makes tons of jokes. When I hand him something and say, “Here you go,” he responds, “Here you stop,” with a grin on his face. He thinks he’s the most hilarious person ever.
I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t mind if I told that funny episode. He’d actually love to say the joke himself in front of others. Still, what about the other times when he isn’t making a joke or trying to be funny?
I’ll do my best to be mindful of sharing funny stories about kids. Especially with stories about him that he wasn’t exactly making a joke about. I’d hate for him to hesitate telling me something because he’s not sure if I’ll blab it to others.
As with most cases when considering children’s feelings, I picture how I would feel if I were in his shoes. A little background about me: I’m notorious for mispronouncing a ton of words. I know what words mean, I just mispronounce some of them.
Up until a month ago, I’d been saying the word “sparse” like “spares” instead of “spars.” If my husband addressed me in front of friends, “Tell them about how you pronounce ‘sparse’.” I wouldn’t appreciate it.
I won’t have a perfect record—what parent can, when kids are so darn cute? But I’ll ask myself whether my son would be comfortable being the subject of a funny story before sharing it.
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Still hungry for more discussion on how we communicate about and to our kids? Check out some of the other content here:
- Why You Should Definitely Intervene when Adults Overwhelm Your Kids
- The Simple Truth about Your Child’s Annoying Questions
- Kids’ Complaints Aren’t Petty… At Least to Them
- 3 Ways We Unintentionally Disrespect Our Kids
- 3 Reasons You Shouldn’t Rush a Toddler
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