Teaching discretion: My mom says you’re a jerk

Emily often tags along to David’s Cub Scout meetings. At the end of a recent meeting one of the scouts (we’ll call him Scout to protect the innocent) was giving Emily a hard time. It wasn’t a big deal but our conversation on the drive home went something like this:

Me: Emily, what happened with you and Scout?

Emily: He was being mean and he told me girls can’t play.

Me: I think you handled it really well.

Emily: He put his fingers in his ears and said “nananananana, I can’t hear you.”

Me: I know; that wasn’t nice of him.

Emily: He told me I’m too girly-girly and can’t come to Cub Scouts ever.

Me: Emily, as long as I’m the leader you can come as a visitor. Scout was just acting like that because he wanted to play with the other scouts.

Emily: He said I’m a jerk.

Me: Well, it sounds like he was the one being a jerk.

Fast-forward to a week later.   We walked into Cub Scouts; Emily walked straight up to Scout and said:

“Scout, my mom says you’re a jerk.”

Absolute silence.

I was speechless. What could I say? (“I may have said that but it sounds much worse when taken out of context.” “Scout, I only said that last week when you were being a bit of a jerk.” Neither of these seemed to be good options.)

Emily, in her defense, is a very literal, innocent soul. She wasn’t making this proclamation to be mean to Scout or to mortify me. She said, “Scout, my mom says you’re a jerk,” because when she saw Scout that’s what she was thinking. So, God bless her, that’s what came out of her mouth.

I’ve decided to introduce my children to the concept of discretion.

We’re starting from square one with these tips/discussion points:

  1. The first step is for us parents. Watch what you say around your children. Living with kids is like living under constant surveillance by little, cute, talkative spies.
  2. Kids love clubs. Explain to them that families are like clubs and certain things are secret from people who aren’t club members.
  3. Talk about the power of words and the need to be careful with our words, to think before we speak.
  4. Teach your kids to ask: is this kind? Children may struggle with the concepts of privacy and speaking thoughtfully, but they understand hurt feelings.

What did I say to Scout? I apologized and had Emily do the same. I made sure that Scout knows I don’t think he’s a jerk.

And then I changed the subject to secret codes (our activity for that night’s meeting). Sometimes distraction is the only way to cover indiscretion and what could be better for distracting an 8-year-old boy than secret codes?

Secret codes may be slightly less effective when dealing with adults:

“Congrats on your pregnancy!”

“I’m not pregnant.”

“The cow drinks Coke under the full moon.”


6 thoughts on “Teaching discretion: My mom says you’re a jerk

  1. That’s great. Kids will sell you out in a second. I think you are a better person than I. Would’ve been tough to not pretend as though the child was crazy and shouldn’t make up stories about what mommy said. Well, not that I’ve ever referred to myself as mommy, but you understand. Discretion: the word of the day.

  2. They will sell you out! They’re not really like spies – they’re like double agents. I actually just said sorry and ignored the whole “my mommy said” part so I can’t take too much credit. Especially since my kids are a little crazy.

    (Thanks for the laugh, by the way.)


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