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What To Say When Your Kid Misbehaves

Toddlers are amoral, antisocial monsters. You know it. I know it. Every parent on the playground knows it.

That doesn’t stop the feeling of crushing shame when your little angel tromps through another kid’s masterpiece sand castle, grabs his shovel and beans him on the head with it. It’s even worse when the victim’s parent gives you The Look.

You know that look. The one that says, “This is all your fault. What kind of parent are you? I’m sure I’ll be seeing your mug shot on the evening news any day now, you delinquent.”

McSweeney’s has a hilarious take on how to navigate these moments in their current issue, with an essay titled, “Our Daughter Isn’t a Selfish Brat; Your Son Just Hasn’t Read Atlas Shrugged.”

Now, not all of us are smooth enough to claim we’re raising our kids in keeping with a bizarre self-obsessed philosophy that eschews sharing at all costs. Here are some other ideas to get you out of those awkward moments:

  • Pretend not to know your kid. When my husband was a small child, he rode his bike into a woman carrying her grocery bags. The woman grabbed him, held him aloft and shouted, “Whose child is this?” My mother-in-law played dumb rather than fess up to having spawned the brat in question. This tactic works especially well with preverbal kids. Once they can call you Mommy, it’s harder to pull off.
  • Pretend not to know the language. No need to engage with the righteous anger of parents at circle time when your kid starts throwing toys at the other toddlers. Just apologize profusely in Swahili, scoop up your kid and flee.
  • Pretend to have lost your mind. This one should be easy for most parents. In fact, it requires very little in the way of pretense. Just open your mouth and let whatever exhausted gibberish you had on the tip of your tongue fall out. You’ll quickly find that you and the offended parent are on the same side after all: holding onto your sanity by your fingernails while your lives are run by sociopathic nihilists in diapers, and loving (almost) every minute of it.

What outrageous comebacks have you come up with to smooth ruffled feathers when your kids act out? What do you wish you’d said?

Photo: goldberg

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