Monday, July 7, 2008

In Defense Of Hilary - And Myself

I was cut to the quick by Keri's claim, "I've asked Amy to teach Hilary some tact, but to be honest, I think Amy finds it all too funny to put to an end."

Although I do find some of Hilary's questions funny - such as, "What would we do if there were no bathrooms?" and "What if cars didn't have tires?" - I wouldn't find it at all amusing if she, in her quest to solve all the mysteries of the universe, said something hurtful.

But the reason I haven't taught Hilary tact is that I just don't know how. How do you teach a five-year-old that some things shouldn't be said, even if they're completely true? Why is it okay to say, "That man is tall," but not okay to say, "That man is fat?" Why is it a compliment to say, "That lady looks young," but an insult to say, "That lady looks old"?

The fact is, Andy and I have spent so much time drilling into Erika and Hilary the importance of always telling the truth, that I'm not sure I want to complicate matters by trying to explain to Hilary the exceptions to this rule. Hopefully, as she gets older, she'll become more socially savvy, and she'll begin to understand why she shouldn't announce, upon opening a present, "Oh, I have this already."

In the meantime, if anyone has any tips on how to help develop this kind of social awareness, please pass them along!


Rachel said...

As a former k and pre k teacher, 5 years old is not too young to learn tact. I would introduce it as part of general politeness. You say please and thank you and you don't make people feel uncomfortable. The next time she says that the man on the bus is fat, tell her it is true, but that it might make him feel bad, that he might be sick, etc and that while she can talk to you or mention it in private, that isn't a comment you make in public. If she isn't sure what is approprate, then she should check with you before she says it to someone else.

DomaMama said...

We've been working on this at our house, too. My 3-1/2 year old last week asked our neighbor's twenty-something son why he was wearing "funny pants" (shorts). In her defense, we live in rainy Oregon and don't see shorts until at least late July. And the constant questions (tactful or not), especially on a long car ride, are enough to make me jump out of said vehicle.

I feel like I want to encourage observation and analysis of things she notices in the world around her, but not the pointing and rude questions that come with. We've been working on it, but expect it will take some time. Evidence of improvement: yesterday, when a friend who'd been camping for a week stopped at our house and asked my daughter how he smelled (yes, they have a close relationship), she smiled and said, "Like Chris." Later she told me she thought he smelled bad, which he did. Progress!

But, yes, I, too, would appreciate any tips and advice about how to keep this process moving along.

Love your blog by the way--what a great title!

Lara said...

We have a rule that you do not comment on someone's behavior or appearance in front of them, good bad or neutral. The girls are free to do so when we are alone since it is usually a question (ie why does that man only have one hand, what is wrong with her back, etc). Simple and easy. Before the birthday or Christmas, they are told to only say thank you for each gift. If they don't want it we will return it later, but I explain that it hurts people's feelings when you don't appreciate their gift. My girls are now 5 and we have been working on it since they were 3 (when their speech was easily discernable by others). I don't think it is too early to learn that keeping something to yourself is different than lying. Hope this helps. I have no idea how I found your blog but I am liking it so far!