By Priscilla J. Dunstan, McClatchy-Tribune
We have all experienced that moment of embarrassment when our child comments rudely on something they shouldn’t, and we rush to silence them and say our apologies. Often the feelings of the person are still hurt and our child is left somewhat confused as to what they have said or done to cause the problem.
If what they have said is not untrue, just inappropriate; or something taboo and not to be commented on, this can be hard for a child to understand. Often appealing to their dominate sense both for what they say and also for how they hear, will give them the ability to create positive comments rather than the inappropriate ones.
For visual children what they see and how they are seen is extremely important. My visual brother to this day will comment on my weight, not meaning to be critical, but because he equates something being emotionally wrong with me if I’m too thin or fat. Asking about my weight is his way of asking is everything OK in my life. Visual children will comment, sometimes inappropriately about what they see, especially if something is visually off or new. If you are aware of their motivations for their comments, like “you’re too fat,” “you’re bald,” or even odd things like “people with blue eyes are scary,” you will know how to show them a better way, by commenting on visual similarities.
When my tactile son was 3, he was very upset about a boy a year or so older than him who was in a wheelchair. The thought of not being able to run, jump and wrestle equated to nonexpression. He was adamant that this child was dying and expressed loudly this viewpoint. Once I explained that actually, he could move a lot, and that he just had wheels for legs, he immediately was relived, ran over to the boy, to race him, and they have been steady friends ever since. Alleviating my son’s fears by explaining a tactile value worked 100 times better than if I was to say, “Don’t say that, it’s not nice.”
Taste and smell children of course are very conscious of the emotions surrounding comments, and can end up being more upset at offending someone than the offended person. Teaching these sensory children how to make amends is very important. They need to know the world doesn’t end because of hurt feelings and that there are ways to “take back” insensitive comments. This will also teach them not to be so sensitive to others’ insensitivity, because everybody sometimes says things thoughtlessly.
Auditory children remember every word spoken to them and often repeat things said on the quiet at home, to the person in question. As these children respond to logic and have a keen sense of meaning. Teaching them how something is said and appropriateness of when to say it will go a long way to their development of empathy. Changing one word in a sentence can be the difference between hurt feelings and gratitude. By teaching your auditory child these tools, they will be able to express themselves freely, but with sensitivity.
We all say things that can be misunderstood. Children are still learning to navigate the social matrix of expression. Explaining situations to them through their dominant sense will enable them to understand more fully the implications of verbal comments and how best to edit them
Priscilla J. Dunstan is a child and parenting behavior expert and consultant and the author of “Child Sense.” Learn more about Priscilla and her parenting discoveries at www.childsense.com.