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Grownups Say the Darndest Things (Q & A)

I  recently received the following question via email from a friend.  With her permission, I am sharing it and my answer.
My 4 year old daughter was born without all of her fingers.  It causes her no issues in daily life. However, she does get a lot of comments, questions and stares.  We are working with her on ways to answer questions, ask people to stop staring, etc…but it doesn’t seem to be sticking.  She prefers just to give people the “evil eye” and make a face at them if she feels uncomfortable.  Should we consider therapy for this?
  1. I think that the evil eye seems pretty darn appropriate for the time being.  Geesh, people can be so rude, even grownups, why should we expect the 4 year old to be the mature one.  I really mean that–it would be a little different if she were 16, but she’s just 4!  Keep giving her the information and guidance about a better way to respond, but for her age, I think the evil eye is a pretty appropriate response.  It will probably take many, many conversations about how better to respond before that will ‘stick.’
  2. I would encourage you to step in and set the limit/advocate for her for now, too.  “Excuse me, but I noticed that you (adult) are staring. It makes my daughter feel uncomfortable when people stare at her, so I’m making a friendly request for you to stop.”  or something like that.
  3. With kids I might just go ahead and answer whatever question they are asking (or might be thinking.)  Something like “‘Oh, nothing happened, it’s just the way she was born.  Her fingers look different but they still do the same things your fingers do.  She loves to color and ride her bike and play catch, how about you?  Do you like to do those things, too?  What’s your favorite… blah blah change the subject…”

By doing the things I suggest in #s 2 and 3, you are role modeling what you want your daughter to do (and how you want her to “be”),  taking the pressure off of her having to both handle her feelings about the rudeness/intrusion while trying to rise above it to be polite, plus it’s got a wonderful “I’m on your side and I will protect you from the goobers we encounter out there” feel to it.  Very relationship-reinforcing.  :^)