What to Do When Your Toddler is Accidentally Rude

Toddlers are still learning what’s socially acceptable. Sometimes, they’re going to be rude to other people. Most often, it’s accidental, but sometimes it’s intentional, too. Today, let’s focus on accidental rude behavior and how you can deal with it.

Here’s a good example. A young girl, aged 3, was sitting at the dinner table with her parents and grandmother. The grandfather had passed away the year prior. Out of nowhere, the young girl looked at grandma and said, “Papaw died. He was old. You’re old and will die too, Mawmaw.”

Mawmaw understood, of course, that the toddler didn’t mean anything by it. She was just connecting dots. But her parents still felt the need to correct the behavior.

Here are some tips that will help lower the odds of your toddler being accidentally rude:

  • Teach him to keep it quiet. Create a new rule for your toddler. Whenever your toddler wants to talk about how people look, sound or smell, he must do so in a quiet voice. Toddlers like the idea of secrets, and so this may stick. Of course, some toddler whispering is pretty loud, so it may take some modeling for him to learn how quiet it should be.
  • Talk to your child about discretion. Some toddlers can be very empathetic. Explain to your child that people come in all sorts of sizes, shapes, ages and colors. Tell her it’s not polite to point out those things, because sometimes it can hurt their feelings. Try to connect it with a time that your toddler’s feelings were hurt by someone else’s rude comment, if at all possible.
  • Help your child apologize. Once it happens, it’s time for damage control. Offer an apology to the offended party yourself first. Don’t mention the offense (“sorry you have such a big nose that my kid couldn’t help but notice!”) but instead say something along the lines of “We’re still working on our manners.” Then, ask your child to apologize.

Rude behavior, most of the time, isn’t intentional. It’s part of learning and growing, and your role in helping your toddler understand what’s OK to say and what’s not is crucial.