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Most Embarrassing Kid Moments

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  • Most Embarrassing Kid Moments 1 of 10

    It's Saturday morning, and my five-year-old and I are in line at Target. I've let her rummage through my purse as I check my email. "Mommy, what is this?" Sabrina says. I look up to see her holding a tampon. "It’s for mommies," I mutter and toss it back into my bag. But she’s not done: "Mommy! I see you in the bathroom using that!"

    I shove a People magazine into her hands to distract her and stare fixedly ahead, making eye contact with no one.

    As any parent knows, kids specialize in moments of parental mortification. Not that they mean to. According to Betsy Brown Braun, a child development and behavior specialist and author of Just Tell Me What too Say: Sensible Tips and Scripts for Perplexed Parents, "Young children have little impulse control and are only starting to cultivate empathy and a sense of other people’s feelings." So how's a mortified parent supposed to handle her child and save face? Take this advice from top experts for 8 very common sticky situations.

  • Most Embarrassing Kid Moments 2 of 10

    1. Your child announces, "Mommy! Look! That lady has such a big tummy!" and the woman is not pregnant.

    Your child announces, For starters, get down on the child’s eye level and quietly say, "You are right, and I will tell you about it after we leave," Brown Braun says. If said big-bellied woman is glaring at you, you could try tossing off a remark like, "Kids really do say the darndest things!" then move away, fast. Later, you can explain to your child that bellies come in all shapes and sizes, and since she didn’t know how that lady at the store feels about her belly — maybe she likes it, maybe she doesn't — it’s better to not say anything about it. Then pray she never notices how jiggly your thighs are.

  • Most Embarrassing Kid Moments 3 of 10

    2. Your child hits another kid at the playground.

    Your child hits another kid at the playground. Young kids are highly territorial, and those under three also sometimes struggle to express feelings with words, and may resort to using their hands. You want to get down on your child’s eye level and say, in a firm voice (don't yell), "We do not hit." Ask the other child if he is okay, then tell the mom, "We’re sorry, we’re just learning about using our words, not our hands." It doesn’t pay to force your child to say sorry, Brown Braun says, because young kids are not sorry and they'll only get distracted from the point of learning to not hit.

    Then take your child away to a bench, wait for him to calm down and acknowledge what happened: "You wanted to use the boy's bucket and he didn’t let you. Next time, please use your words and say 'I want a turn.'" Give your child another chance to play nicely, letting him know that if it happens again you will take him home. Then reinforce any good behavior: "Look at how well you’re playing! You’re sharing and using your words!"

  • Most Embarrassing Kid Moments 4 of 10

    3. Your child said a bad curse word in front of another adult.

    Your child said a bad curse word in front of another adult. A friend of mine has the mother of all stories: Her daughter's kindergarten class has a letter of the day, and on "F" day (you can guess where this is headed), the teacher stopped by her child’s chair and asked what word she had written out. "F---!" little Lucy replied. Taken aback, the teacher asked what picture Lucy had drawn. "That’s my Mommy," Lucy said. "She says that word all the time." When the teacher called home, my friend wisely blamed her potty-mouthed husband, apologized profusely, and asked the teacher for advice. The teacher recommended (in the most polite of ways) that they watch their mouths and reinforce the "no-nasty-word rule" if Lucy ever says the word again.

    "It’s best not to harp on a curse word unless a child repeats it regularly" says Susan Newman, Ph.D., a social psychologist and author of The Book of No: 250 Ways to Say it — And Mean It. Kids often use foul language because they're giving it a test run — to see how a word sounds and gauge the reaction they’ll get. If you make a big deal about it, they may delight in repeating it to get your attention.

    If your little love-y drops the f-bomb in front of another parent, you can say, "I can’t imagine where she heard that!" (go on, play dumb). Then tell your child, "You know, those are words we don’t use in our family." And try not to recount this story to your friends within kids' earshot — if they know you think it’s amusing, they’ll keep at it.

  • Most Embarrassing Kid Moments 5 of 10

    4. Your kid has just pooped/vomited/spewed snot/deposited some other bodily fluid on someone else's couch or rug.

    Your kid has just pooped/vomited/spewed snot/deposited some other bodily fluid on someone else's couch or rug. Comedian-actress Amy Wilson, author of a book on motherhood called When Did I Get Like This, once had to deal with a major throw-up fiasco. "One Sunday afternoon, we went to visit friends who had recently moved," she recalls. "As I held my 13-month-old and admired their new hallway Oriental rug, the baby suddenly projectile vomited all over it. We stood there, horrified, until my husband said, 'Tell you one thing, that was one hell of a housewarming gift!' That broke up the tension, and everyone laughed, helped clean the rug and went on to have a great afternoon."

    At times like this, the best you can do is make sure your child is okay and show remorse to the other person ("OH MY GOD, I’M SO SORRY!"). If you can, says Newman, call up your sense of humor. Then pitch in with the mess, enlisting your child if possible and offering dry-cleaning money. Try to take it in stride; vomit/poop/icky stuff happens.

  • Most Embarrassing Kid Moments 6 of 10

    5. Your kid has a meltdown in the supermarket and everyone is staring.

    Your kid has a meltdown in the supermarket and everyone is staring. You might want the floor to open up and swallow you whole, so if it’ll make you feel better, remark to people nearby, "Do you remember what it’s like to have a three-year-old?" Newman adds, "Keep in mind that you will never see any of these people again!" As for your inconsolable child, inform her, "We do not have tantrums like this," pick her up and walk out of the store (inconvenient, but necessary). Acknowledge what the issue may be — "I know you are tired/hungry/wanted that toy." Then lay out what will happen next: "When you calm down we’re going to go back in, buy milk, cottage cheese, and burgers, and will you help find the buns? I need a helper. Then we'll go home."

    In general, try to hit stores only when kids are well-fed and rested up so they’re less likely to explode. Distraction can also do the trick. Brown Braun, who brought up triplets, says, "When I’d take them to the supermarket as kids, I’d weigh three giant apples and give them to them — reminding them, of course, we’d have to pay for them. They kept them busy the whole time. You can also do it with a roll."

  • Most Embarrassing Kid Moments 7 of 10

    6. Your child opens up a birthday present, looks at the giver and remarks, "I already have that!" or "I don’t like it!"

    Your child opens up a birthday present Until that day comes when your kid learns there are some thoughts you keep on the inside, you will need to do damage control. If it’s a duplicate toy, tell your child, "Yes, you have that, and now you’ll have two! Uncle Harry looked all over for that present, so let’s thank him for finding something so great." Next tell Uncle Harry, "You knew just what he would like!" Then mention that when a friend comes over, he’ll have one to share or that it’s great to have a copy to keep at grandma’s house. Later on, remind your child that Uncle Harry wasn’t trying to give him a bad present; he tried his best, so it’s important to just say thank you.

    If your little one has, however, slammed whatever present Uncle Harry gave him, lighten up the situation by saying, "You know, Uncle Harry, this is not my child. My child would never say something so rude. Give me a minute while I go find my child." Then trot your kid out of the room and say, "I get that you don’t like puzzles, but Uncle Harry didn’t know that. He tried hard to get you something you would like and telling him you didn’t hurt Uncle Harry’s feelings. Next time, just say 'Thank you' and then later you can tell me or Daddy in private that you do not like it."

    To avoid gift awkwardness in the future, Newman suggests that you "have a little refresher course before birthdays or holidays about what to say in these situations." Of course, you could just wait till everyone goes home to open the prezzies — the safest bet of all.

  • Most Embarrassing Kid Moments 8 of 10

    7. You’re breastfeeding in public and accidentally flash a room full of people.

    You’re breastfeeding in public and accidentally flash a room full of people. Most nursing women have exposed themselves at some point or another — it’s inevitable when you’re dealing with a squirming baby. If someone makes a snippy comment such as, "Cover yourself up, will you?" Newman’s advice is to simply say, "I apologize if I’ve made you uncomfortable" even as you think "He/she needs to get a life!" You’re doing something wonderful for your child, so what’s a little flashed nip?

  • Most Embarrassing Kid Moments 9 of 10

    8. Out of the blue your child proudly announces to someone, "I have a vagina!" or "I have a penis!"

    Out of the blue your child proudly "This happens frequently when kids are two and three," notes Brown Braun. "Often, they’ll say 'I have peanuts!' or 'I have a bagina!'" So if your child has actually used the right word, try to be proud even as you turn a lovely shade of red. Meanwhile, all you have to tell your "I’ve got a vagina!" child is, "Yes, you do!" You don’t want to put the kibosh on her willingness to talk about her anatomy by asking her not to discuss it.

    As for how to handle adults who may or may not be amused, toss off a remark like, "Wow, my child is really learning her anatomy!" And remember, says Newman, that this situation and other mortifying ones are excellent fodder for the future: "Think about what fun you will have at your child’s wedding rehearsal recounting them!"

  • Most Embarrassing Kid Moments 10 of 10

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