Why your words matter when talking to children

My daughter has been described ‘shy’ by so many people over the years; mostly by strangers and people who don’t know her well.

She’s far from shy when she’s in the company of those she feels comfortable with. Lately, she just needs time to warm up to those she doesn’t know – this is different to being shy.

As we were leaving Morrisons today I saw a lady collecting money for children’s charity. I took out some change and as we got closer I asked Olivia if she wanted to put the money in the pot.

Before she could answer the lady said very loudly, “ooo she’s a shy one isn’t she.”

Boom. She lost Olivia right there.

I told the lady she’s a little uncertain around new people and likes to check them out first. A sensible thing to do if you ask me.

Then to my horror the lady said “are you a little baby?” and then giggled like it was funny.

I’m sure she was just being playful, but my daughters face just dropped (I think mine did too) and she kind of pushed her head into my side.

The next words out of the lady’s mouth are the reason for writing this blog post…

“Yes, you are a little baby aren’t you.”

The words were still uttered in a very playful voice, I’m sure the lady meant no harm but for goodness sake, surely she saw our faces the first time she called my eight year old a little baby!

As we walked away I literally had to stop and look into Olivia’s eyes and tell her she’s not a baby and that I think she’s very sensible to take caution sometimes when approaching people we don’t know – that’s totally acceptable.

What isn’t acceptable is calling a child a little baby twice.

Being shy (or taking a while to warm up to strangers) isn’t a problem – the way it was responded today was.

I know some things are said in the heat of the moment, in the fear of what/what not to say to a ‘shy’ child or out of embarrassment itself.

But please be careful with your words. Try not to negatively label a child, ever.

Imagine how it felt for an eight year old to be called a baby twice.

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3 Comments

  1. That is just downright rude and pretty mean to call your girl a baby.
    My girls are the same. They take time to show their real selves if they are around strangers. As soon as someone says they are shy they just go in on themselves and that’s it, chances are they will act shy.

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