Some comments can drive parents crazy. See if you’ve heard these 4 things you shouldn’t say about other people’s children.
As parents, we get a lot of comments from others—whether loved ones or strangers—about our kids. Some are about how they look, the way they behave, or even assumptions about their personalities. We get unsolicited, unhelpful advice, or “jokes” that aren’t funny at all.
Sure, some of these we can shrug away, especially if you’re walking on eggshells around certain people. But other times, comments like these left unchecked can leave an impression not only on you, but on your child.
4 things you shouldn’t say about other people’s children
In most cases, people don’t say these comments with hurtful intentions, but rather as plain observations. Still, many of them can throw any parent off, either as offensive or flat out wrong.
These are comments I’ve heard said about my kids, as well as other people’s children, that made me raise an eyebrow. I’ve realized how easily we blurt words and opinions about kids that we’d never say about other adults. But somehow, we think it’s okay to say this to or about them.
I’ve been more vocal about calling people out when I hear these types of comments, whether about my own kids or others’. See if you’ve heard these comments before that should probably have been left unsaid:
1. Pointing out how different a child’s skin color is
One of my kids has darker skin, while the other two have lighter skin. It’s no surprise then that I’ve heard comments about their skin color, even when they were infants.
I’m mindful of this in particular because of two things:
First, my son might feel like he doesn’t belong when he’s singled out about something he can’t even do anything about. Why bring up how different he is when it bears no weight on his being loved unconditionally in a family?
And second, even if said as an innocent remark, it implies that there’s something wrong with dark skin.
With years of colonialism throughout the globe, an implicit bias gets passed down through generations. In my own culture, people have commented about looking white as if it’s a blessing. Meanwhile, you might get reminded not to stay out in the sun too long or to wear a hat so you don’t get dark.
But it’s in allowing these types of comments to continue that enables this mentality to keep going. We need to be more aware of how innocuous comments like these can do more harm than good.
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2. Calling a child chubby
Chubby kids can be cute, I get it. And in the newborn days, we want our babies to be able to gain weight. I remember feeling scared I wouldn’t be able to take one of my twins home from the hospital because he had been born underweight.
So yes, fat is good, but at a certain point, the fat talk has to stop.
Don’t tease other people’s children about their weight. Avoid comments about how carrying a child is a serious arm workout, or that she’s bigger than her siblings. She might notice that everyone seems to point out how big she is, even if said in jest or love.
3. Remarking on a child’s development and milestones
One of my twins was boisterous and active as a baby. He rolled over, crawled, and walked on target. Meanwhile, his brother liked to lie down—a lot. On nearly every milestone, especially physical ones, he trailed his brother by a long shot.
So, of course, I heard comments about him being “the lazy one.”
Even with innocent intentions, calling a child lazy is not a good message to send. Can a baby even be lazy? Babies develop at their own paces and learn in different ways. Not crawling as fast as his brother isn’t laziness, but a difference in growth and interest.
And imagine growing up hearing you’re lazy, even as a joke—not exactly the trait you’d be proud of.
The same is true with other milestones a child misses. Maybe he isn’t feeding himself yet, or can’t read as quickly as his sister did.
Pointing out a child’s milestones, especially if they’re delayed, can panic and worry any parent. Avoid comparing a child to others, or asking why she hasn’t hit certain milestones yet. Se likely will—at her own pace.
4. Saying a child isn’t friendly or social
We value extroverts, especially with kids. We love it when they put on a show on demand and greet every adult with a smile and an outstretched hug. They’re the kids who strike a conversation with others and don’t hesitate speaking in front of an audience.
Meanwhile, “shy” kids get a bad rap. They cling onto their parents for dear life at social gatherings. They may even cry or want only mom or dad to carry them. And they’re not comfortable with strangers, much less feel inclined to smile at them.
Kids need social skills, for sure. And when they’re not meeting social milestones, then yes, something could be wrong.
But for most children, saying they’re not friendly or unsocial is plain wrong. These kids are displaying healthy stranger anxiety and strong attachments to their parents, as they should.
It’s more common for kids to be “shy” than to be vocal and outgoing. Saying a child isn’t friendly or social makes her feel isolated and strange when most kids actually behave this way. Imagine feeling that something is wrong with you when, in fact, your behavior is quite normal.
And finally, “shyness” and introversion have their own benefits as well.
These are the children who, thanks to their listening skills and empathy, tend to have many friends. Their attachment to their parents is a sign of a strong parent-child relationship. And they often grow up to be the big thinkers and unexpected leaders of the world.
These kids aren’t antisocial at all, but wary of new situations. Given enough time and space, they can warm up to new environments and feel at ease in social gatherings. But pointing out their shyness as if it’s a terrible trait isn’t going to get them there.
People say seemingly innocent comments in jest and even with affection and love. But over time, they can send the wrong message, especially to children.
Kids can’t tell they’re different from others or that these differences should even matter. Hearing these comments can create internal dialogue that may not be healthy. And these statements overlook normal and healthy child development and behavior.
So, should you see a shy, chubby child who looks different and isn’t walking yet… hold your tongue. Neither he nor his parents need to hear you say anything about it.
Get more tips:
- Why We Need to Stop Telling Boys to “Man Up”
- Why You Shouldn’t Tell Kids to Stop Crying
- Warning: 5 Things You Tell Your Kids but Probably Shouldn’t
- 14 Funny Things People without Kids Say
- 8 Remarkable Parenting Goals Every Mom Should Have
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