Solutions to Sticky Situations


You’re in public and your child makes an embarrassing comment to someone.
They pick their nose while you are eating at a restaurant.
They share an embarrassing story about you.

Every parent has been there and most of the time other parents understand the ups and downs of parenting and are willing to be patient, help out, and excuse behaviors that seem impolite or embarrassing. Sticky situations with kids can be difficult to navigate, but there are a few things you can do to make the best of them.

Your child does something rude at a restaurant

You’re eating out and your child does something gross or impolite like burping, picking their nose, or throwing food. Place your hand on the child’s shoulder and quietly ask them to stop the behavior and explain that they are being impolite. If you think their behavior is rooted in attention seeking and is somewhat tolerable, it may be appropriate to simply ignore it. However, if your child persists, it may be best to ask them to take a bathroom break. When you return to the table, try to find something to distract your child. Some parents may bring a tablet, coloring book, or small toys to keep their child busy while waiting for their food but if you find yourself unprepared you can play “I spy” or another guessing game to keep them occupied.

Pro parent tip: Put together a “busy bag” that you can bring to restaurants. Include a few art supplies, small toys, books, magnet toys, or fidgets to keep your child occupied while waiting. To keep your child’s interest, switch out the items often and only allow them to play with it when you are at a restaurant or other situation where they need to be quiet.

Your child makes a rude comment to a stranger

This can be one of the most embarrassing situations for a parent. My cousin once went up to an elderly man and told him, “You are old and will die soon.” If your child makes a comment about someone’s appearance, it’s best to quickly apologize to the person they offended. If appropriate, have your child apologize to them as well. Let your child know that it is never okay to make fun of someone’s appearance or comment on their race, weight, or age. If you feel that your child is simply curious about something and not making the comment rudely, try to take the time, when appropriate, to explain to your child. For example, if your child has a question about why someone is in a wheelchair you could explain that they need it to help them move around.

Pro parent tip: Let your child know that people come in all sizes, shapes, races, and ages. Our differences are what makes us each special. Your child will follow your lead when it comes to accepting others. If you celebrate diversity, they will most likely do the same. Talk to your child about differences and let them know it’s okay to ask questions but never to make fun of others.

Your child has a potty accident in public

During the months of potty training, accidents are likely to happen. It’s best not to make a big production of it and clean it up as quickly as possible. Try not to shame or embarrass your child, which can cause problems long term and even prolong potty training. Potty accidents always seem to happen in the most inconvenient times and places. Ideally you have an extra change of clothes in your car or diaper bag, but if not, it’s okay to leave early or borrow clothes from someone if needed.

Pro parent tip: Keep a stash of wipes and a full change of clothes in a ziploc bag in your car. The bag can be used to bring home dirty clothes as well.

Your child shares embarrassing and private information about you

“My mom and dad kiss a lot. And I mean a lot!” was what one preschooler told me while I was teaching a Sunday school class. Another child told me how their dad snores and has stinky feet. Young kids usually don’t have much of a filter and are willing to share private and sometimes embarrassing information with teachers, friends and even complete strangers. In this situation, try to change the subject or turn the comment into a joke. “Well, we do have four kids” was how the kissing couple responded after their child shared that information.

Pro parent tip: When it’s the right time, you can talk to your kids about not sharing private information outside of the family. In the moment, try to turn the moment into a joke. If you brush it off with a laugh, others are more likely to do so.

These sticky situations can be embarrassing, but the good news is, they are common. Every parent has a few embarrassing moments they can share about their parenting journey. Often in these instances, you may be able to use humor to distract from the situation or simply apologize and move on. If nothing else, you can wait until your child is a teenager and share some of your own stories that might make them blush now that they are a little older.

Sarah Lyons is a freelance writer and frequent contributor.


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