When we speak to a friend over our ‘playdate’ lunch, or talk on the cell phone while we’re driving home from preschool, it’s easy to forget that anyone is listening in on our conversations. Yet, even our toddlers hear what we say, whether or not they fully understand what they hear. We need to be really careful about that.
Sometimes, parents will put down another child, parent, or teacher in front of their child. At three or four years old, the toddler doesn’t always understand their parents’ concerns, and they may take the conversation out of context. Whether they understand it or not, it is likely that they will share that information.
Cassie got into her mother’s car after a birthday party, with her lip quivering and tears in her eyes. Her mother asked her why she was so upset.
“Jared told me that he didn’t like the gifts I gave him for his birthday,” she said. “He said his parents said they were too young for him.”
Cassie was upset and now her mother was furious. Jared’s parents, probably overwhelmed after their son’s birthday party, didn’t think twice about discussing the gifts their son received. What they didn’t take into account is that their son was listening, and he certainly didn’t understand the intent that went along with their comments.
What Jared's parents did was wrong on many levels. Talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth! This is a situation that never should have happened. It is unlikely that the parents were really upset about the gift, but they should never have discussed it in front of their child.
From the child’s perspective, the parents were dissatisfied with the gift. If that were true, they could have easily returned it without insulting the family who gave it to their son. But, if that really wasn’t the case, they could have prevented the hurt feelings that resulted from their misunderstood comments.
So, just think about what you say in front of your children. Even if your comments are misinterpreted, they may cause bad feelings.