Address Them Directly: Children know when they’re being talked about

by EPI Staff on March 16, 2011

Q: My friend always speaks openly about my children right in front of them, and I know they can hear her. Is it acceptable for her to make comments about them but not address them directly?

A: You wouldn’t talk about an adult right in front of her face, and the same courtesy should be shown to a child. All but the youngest can-and are usually more than happy to-speak for themselves. She should address the child directly, offering the same respect you’d expect her to show you. If the comment is about something serious (say, the kid’s weight) ask her to save it for a time when you can discuss it privately. (And be sure to avoid phrasing your concern judgmentally.)

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Daniel Post Senning March 16, 2011 at 4:25 pm

The more general guideline is that if anyone is present you don’t refer to them in the third person. I wish more people were aware of this as I hear it happen not infrequently and it always sounds strange to me. Modeling correct use of grammar in conversation with children as well as on the page is an important part of teaching children what is expected of them.

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Vanna Keiler March 16, 2011 at 5:19 pm

Wow! This question seems tailor-made for me. A relative of mine does the exact same thing: talking about her 5-year old daughter in front of me. Whether the conversation is about her merits, her demerits, discipline, praise…there is no conversation filter in front of her daughter. I have glanced at the daughter and each time confirmed she was closely listening to what was being discussed about her, and tactfully tried to change the subject. I have even tried to gently suggest to her not to do this behavior. The problem is, if you don’t bring it up right away in front of some people, they seem to develop amnesia and deny it ever occurred. What bothers me is obviously the effect it has on the morale and dignity of a young child, let alone an adult.

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