A few years ago, we were sitting in a living room as my niece opened a few gifts. I can’t remember if it was her birthday or Christmas. Upon opening one from her Grandfather, she promptly belts out “I already have this! I don’t want another one!”
Her parents’ faces turned red. Mouths were agape. Everyone, however, was thankful the grandfather wasn’t in the room at that very moment. I couldn’t imagine the embarrassment had he been in the room.
Just last year it was my turn for embarrassment. My daughter received her Christmas presents from one of the Grandparents. After opening them, she exclaims “Is that all? I want more.” That Christmas, she was all about getting more.
As a parent, I can’t begin to tell you how embarrassing these statements are. Even though the children were very young at the time, it’s hard for us to hear it come out of their mouths. Conversations ensued in both cases about being respectful of others’ feelings and being grateful for everything we receive.
Tactfulness is a great quality to help one avoid awkward situations and be a better friend to everyone. Using tact means using discretion and sensitivity when relating to others around you. But, children’s brains don’t work this way. Instead, it’s natural for a child to do quite the opposite. Still, they can begin to understand this trait as they mature.
Learning tact will save your children from many misunderstandings. Here is how you can help to teach your kids tact and become an individual who is capable of having comfortable conversations with others.
4 Tips for Teaching Kids Tact
Teaching kids tactfulness is going to take some time and plenty of reminders. Since you’re trying to teach honesty at the same time, this may be a lesson that takes more time and patience. The key may be getting your children to think before they speak. Have them ask themselves questions like “will this hurt someone’s feelings if I say this out loud.”
Teaching Your Child about Telling the Truth
Though honesty is an important childhood lesson, it’s important they learn tact to strike a balance between truthfulness and tact. We should want our children to tell the truth, but being honest shouldn’t mean saying whatever we want, whenever it comes to mind. Some truths can be unnecessarily harmful to relationships.
Give your children a solid foundation in teaching what honesty is and is not. Help them to understand what is and is not acceptable to say, as well as teaching them about the balance between honesty and tactfulness.
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Educating about the Need for Tact
Explain to your child about why tact is a necessary element of maintaining relationships. Let your children know that failing to use tact can hurt people’s feelings and put relationships at risk.
Blunt speech, while directly getting your point across, isn’t always the most well received. Explain to your children where tact is essential and necessary for the safety of others’ feelings.
As an example, conversations between world leaders and politicians require tact in order to maintain friendly and effective working relationships.
Soft, or kind, words will go further in maintaining healthy relationships.
Give Examples of Where Tact Was Not Used
Does this age me?
If you’ve noticed a moment or conversation where someone (or your child) lacked tact, discuss it with your child. Explain what consequences may come to the individual who didn’t use tact. And, help them to understand what effects there may be on the individual on the receiving end.
In the prior examples, it would be great to explain to your child that Grandpa may feel like his gifts aren’t good enough. Or he may think of them as ungrateful or selfish. Let them know about they handle situations differently.
Give Examples of Where Tact Was Used
When you notice a situation where someone uses tact, make sure to point it out and help your children focus on the positive effects. Explain how a friend may have avoided an argument by using tact and kind words. Instead of reacting immediately to a feeling, he/she may have thought about their words more carefully in an effort not to increase the stress of a particular disagreement.
If you let your kids watch much television, be sure to point out these situations with their favorite characters. For older children who are exposed to politics, point out tact in those situations. Seeing people they can relate to or those who are in high-powered positions act respectfully among their peers will help. Seeing others model peaceful acceptance of others shows how the positive effects can be far-reaching. Discuss what you can learn from those people we admire and respect.
It’s to be expected that young children struggle with the concept of tactfulness. They’re naturally impulsive and don’t realize how we can hurt people with our words. Give them time and model how to be tactful. In time, they’ll begin to understand the effects of their words. Eventually, everyone will benefit from the relationships your child will be able to handle once they’ve learned the balance between honesty and tact.
I found with my kids that discussing the situations ahead of time with them helped their responses. Such as, “At your birthday party, you need to sincerely say thank you for every gift even if you already have it or do not think you like it. You are thanking them for taking the time to pick something out for you and come to your party. It is not about the actual gift.” Of course, kids are always going to surprise you with what comes out of their mouths, but a little prep work goes a long way.
I love how you put this… and I may have to begin our celebrations the same way from now on. Thank you for that 😀
I like the idea of discussing ahead of time too. What an important topic and some great advice here.
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