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The Trials of Truth vs. Tact

A friend of mine told me of her shock when her four-year-old daughter told a neighbor girl that she never wanted to play with her again. As she scolded, her daughter looked up in true puzzlement and said, “But Mommy, I don’t understand what I did wrong. I said it very nicely!”

In Kidtelligent terms, this child is a Thinker—she makes decisions through objectivity and logical reasoning. Her mother is a Feeler—she makes decisions by stepping into the shoes of others and pondering the impact. No wonder they have a different take on this situation! Daughter saw “I never want to play with you again” as a statement of fact, not of insult. Mother saw it as cruel. While yes, daughter needs to learn tact, even more important at this point is for Mom not to overreact.

Instead of any kind of punishment, Mom can help daughter develop a bit of empathy by saying one of the following.

“You know, when I was a little girl, if you’d said that to me, I’d assume you didn’t like me. Is that what you want her to think?”

“Imagine for a minute that [name someone Daughter has enjoyed playing with] said that to you. What might you think?”

“Let’s think for a moment. Why might your words hurt someone else?”

“How else might you phrase that so a playmate doesn’t feel bad?”

Little Thinkers love to solve problems—and a situation like this provides a perfect chance to help them “see” a problem they’ve created and be part of the solution. They aren’t naturally cruel (in fact, little Feelers are often more adept at cruelty since they can imagine just how a phrase can be used to hurt someone!) but simply matter-of-fact and aware of precedents and if/then reasoning, as in, “If I didn’t have fun playing with her this time, I won’t have fun at any future time.”

Instead of overreacting, help them think just a bit more before they speak!

By Jane Kise, Ed.D. – Educational Advisor and Consultant, 
Jane  writes an insightful post every Tuesday for Kidtelligent. Jane is an educational consultant, specializing in teambuilding, coaching, and school staff development. She is also the coauthor of more than 20 books. Jane’s website  is