Remember that every person has something 'right' about them

July 01, 2005|by LISA PREJEAN

I was working with a group of preschoolers recently when one of the children asked, "What's wrong with him?" The child asking the question was pointing at another child who had a prominent mark on his face. Before I had a chance to explain that it's not nice to point at someone or to make mention of another person's physical features, the other child looked at the one who had spoken and gave his own response.

"Nothing's wrong with me. This is my birthmark. I was born this way."

His tone was matter-of-fact and the other children calmly accepted his answer.

The more I thought about his response, the more I admired his mother. Obviously, she had prepared him before the fact for comments such as this.

Children are naturally curious. If they see something that is out of the ordinary, they ask questions. Sometimes those observations and the questions that follow from them are ones that should not be voiced in public.


Thoughts do not necessarily have to be communicated.

My 6-year-old and I recently had an interesting conversation on this topic. (Aren't all discussions with 6-year-olds interesting?)

I've been trying to teach her the basics of nutrition:

  • It's better to eat cereal than doughnuts for breakfast, even if you're at a friend's house.

  • Let's count how many fruits and vegetables we've had today.

  • No more than two cookies at a time.

Like I said, we're working on the basics.

She recently asked, "Mommy is fat what makes you fat?"

"Basically, yes," I said. "If you eat too much fat it could make you fat."

She thought about that for a while and then leaned in close as if she had a secret to share.

"Mommy, I think I saw a fat man at the store today."

I smiled and said, "You did? Well, probably so. You know, you should never make fun of someone because they're fat."

Her eyes got wide and she said, "Oh, I didn't Mommy. My mouth didn't say anything. I just thought in my head that he was fat."

Then we discussed the importance of not sharing all of our thoughts. It's important to think before we speak. We shouldn't single out anyone for any physical characteristic.

She seemed to understand and be content with my explanation.

Apparently, she was still thinking about our conversation several days later.

After hearing countless comments about her height, she came back to the subject a little confused.

"Mommy, if it's not nice to make comments about the way someone looks, why are all these grown-ups coming up to me and saying I look like a second- or third-grader?"

My heart went out to my long-legged little one who stands a good head above the others in her kindergarten class.

"Do you think I'm too big, Mommy?"

I shook my head and swept her up in my arms.

"No way. I think you are the perfect size. Whenever someone makes a comment about your height, tell them you are just the right size for you. Children who have tall parents are usually tall."

By responding confidently and kindly to thoughtless comments, we change the course of a conversation. That's a communication skill that all children - and adults - should learn.

It's good to be reminded from time to time that idle comments may be hurtful. Any reference to how a person is different from others might fall in that category. Those are the remarks that make people doubt their worth compared to others.

Confidence-building comments focus on what we have in common. They celebrate what is good about another human being.

Why is it important to guard what we say? Because it really can make a difference in someone else's life. A simple, kind comment can turn a bad day into a good day. It can lighten someone's load.

All persons have something that is "right" about them. Those are the things we should teach our children to identify and celebrate.

Perhaps along the way they'll be able to teach us adults a thing or two.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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