I was recently approached a reporter from “The Plain Dealer” by the name of John Campanelli regarding how I handle a situation when a child says something inappropriate about me or to me. He quoted me as saying:
“I often try to go directly to the child and open up a conversation with them,” he said via e-mail (he types with his feet). “It may be that they have never seen someone like me, and often times, I am able to show them that I am a person, too, and that they do not have to be afraid of me just because I look different.” (pg. 3, Advice for handling kids’ embarrassing comments)
I would like to take a moment to write even more about this topic as it is very important to me. Quite frequently, when I am in public, kids stare, laugh, point, or yell out things like, “Hey, what happened to your arms.”
The worst way, in my opinion, for a parent to react is to ignore the child, or to rebuke the child openly/loudly for their behavior. I have even seen parents hit or spank their children for the outburst. I can only assume that the parent is embarassed, and yes, outbursts like that need to be corrected, however, I believe that type of correction only serves the purpose of furthering the child’s fear of people who look different than they do.
If the parent has the opportunity, I recommend for them to stop what they are doing, get eye-to-eye with the child, and explain that some people look different, but that does not mean they aren’t people, too. Many times, with this reaction, I’m able to speak to both the parent and child, which reinforces what I am saying because mom or dad can interject when needed. Even better, when the parent involves me in the conversation, I get a golden opportunity to share God’s love with both the parent and the child. Even though I may look different, God still loves me in every way that He loves you. This message so important, and every child needs to hear it (and every parent, too).
I welcome the opportunity for a child to have questions. The sooner I can teach them not to fear, the better off we are as a country with one more child growing up without a fear of others.