At church, a mother who is expecting was sharing with me a funny story that happened that morning. She asked her seven-year-old daughter if the dress she had on made her look big.
“No mama, YOU make the dress look big!”
Cute, right? Pretty funny in that context. And certainly, this mama was laughing as she recounted the story. But this reminded me how important it is to teach our children honesty AND tactfulness. And with countless embarrassing moments in my repertoire, I can tell you it is far easier said than done.
Tact is something we have to role play with our children.
By role playing, I mean practicing around the table… “Johnny, what would you say if someone asked you such and such?” Or even pretending to be someone and asking them to reply on the fly. When they respond, explain to them what they said and how the other person may have mistaken their meaning, or give them an example of a better response.
Practice being different people in front of them…a peer, a neighbor, someone in a position of authority, a younger child. Explain to them how you would respond in different situations due to age, respect, and the level of understanding of the other participant. This is something we have to do repeatedly! Not something that we practice once and hope they all got it. Keep at it, the outcome is worth it.
There are countless situations that have to be handled delicately, and with much thought before a word is spoken.
A child must be taught to keep family information private, including things like money matters, and be careful in company when discussing things with people of differing opinions. As my children have gotten older, this has spread to discussing faith and especially politics with a cautious mind. Sometimes, especially when speaking with elderly people, they are better off listening to the other person’s point of view, instead of just blabbering on about what they think of a situation or politician. Teaching our children tact also includes them understanding when they are presented with a phenomenal opportunity to learn (as with someone of age or experience in a certain matter) and to avoid coming off as “wise in their own eyes,” even if in fact, in the matter they are discussing, the children do know more about a certain subject than their older counterpart in the discussion.
When the children were little, I had a book titled, “Sticky Situations.” This book covered all kinds of situations children (who were mostly in school) may find themselves in. We would take a couple situations a day at lunchtime (each story was only one page long) and go through what the best response would be. We would discuss when to stand up and when to walk away. The book covered all kinds of things like honesty, loyalty, friendship, and gossip, to name a few.
So while my friend’s daughter may have been honest (and funny!), she was not tactful. She’s only seven, but it is a perfect time to start training that character trait into her, and I know this mommy friend of mine will.
Can you name some embarrassing moments when your children have been “honest” – but perhaps not tactful? Please do share!