6 Things You Should Never Say to Other People's Kids
Families with adopted children aren't the only ones who deal with foot-in-mouth comments about whom their kids resemble. I have a friend who's blonde and blue-eyed and has a North African husband with long dreadlocks. They have two (gorgeous) biological children and one looks so much like him, while the other looks incredibly like her—to the point that each kid hardly bears resemblance to the other parent. Pointing out this discrepancy to a six-year-old may seem harmless, but it can make her feel bereft, isolated or just confused.
2. "Stop pushing."
Playground etiquette can be tricky for parents. There's your own child's safety, which, of course, is the priority; there are the other children with their watchful parents thrown into the mix; then there's the kid who actively does harmful things (whether it's pushing others out of the way on the jungle gym, throwing sand or name-calling) while his or her mom, dad, babysitter or nanny might not be paying attention. So when your child is pushed, your instinct will probably (and understandably) be to scold the misbehaving kid. Instead, saying a simple "Oops! Please don't push," can go a long way. And if it doesn't (fair warning: A parent might take offense), try putting some distance between your kid and the one causing trouble. After all, parenting your own children is a big enough responsibility, never mind trying to correct someone else's.
3. "You are just adorable!" (Said while ignoring the older sibling.)
As with puppies and kittens, children of a certain age—usually between, say, two and four—are inherently cute. Telling them so may seem innocuous, but if there's an older sibling nearby who's well past the age of adorable, be considerate. A seven- or eight-year-old definitely notices when strangers gush about their younger sister or brother, and their feelings are easily hurt. Why not make a comment to acknowledge both of them? A sincere, "What a great smile you've got!" can really mean a lot to a big kid.
4. “Boys don't wear pink."
There was a time last summer when my son, then three, was wearing pink shorts with a white polo shirt and an acquaintance said to him, "Boys don't wear pink." Now, the last thing any parent needs is another person's opinion about their kid's outfit, which can be a challenge to say the least ("These pants are too itchy!" "This coat is too hot!"). Besides this unsolicited comment playing into gender norms, I knew that my son happened to love those shorts. Oh, the heartbreak I felt. Even more frustrating was when a friend's two-year-old son, who identifies as a girl and likes to wear dresses, asked his mom, "Why does everyone keep calling me a boy?" You can't go wrong letting kids be kids, without the labels. Or by telling them that you wish you had a pair of light-up sneakers like theirs.
5. "What a big age gap between you two."
When you encounter siblings that are seven, 10 or even more years apart, there could be a million explanations—yet there's a good chance that every family's reason is pretty personal. The best-case scenario is that the parents just wanted to wait before having another child. Worst-case scenario: There could have been fertility, marriage or financial struggles. And worse still: There might have been a child in between, who passed away. You just never know the circumstances surrounding how much space there is between children, so you're safest not bringing it up.
6. "Does your mom work?"
Talk about a complicated question. It's like asking a child whether his parents have taken him to Walt Disney World yet. Stay away. :/
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