From the mouths of babes...
February 21, 2015 3:49 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for instances of kids pointing out the hypocrisy of grownup society/adult etiquette, or questioning the reasoning of their elders. The funnier the anecdote, the better -- especially when the kid has a point.

For a project I'm working on. I'm looking for examples of things that kids might not understand about the world of grown ups, related to social norms or general "rules of the world." But from the kids' perspective, these things make no sense.

For example, a kid asking why the parents are inviting the neighbors over for dinner when the parents don't like the neighbors. "Because we don't want the neighbors to think we don't like them." "...But you don't like them." Etc.

Less interested in parent/child disputes over what is age-appropriate behavior, like staying up late, eating candy at will, "but YOU do it all the time!" etc. More interested in situations where children have a unique perspective on adult behavior that reveals something funny about things we long ago stopped questioning.
posted by egeanin to Human Relations (25 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
We were flying Alaska airlines and they announced preboarding for families with kids under a certain age. I was exhausted and decided to fudge my youngest child's age by a few months. We go to board and my son, who is 16 months older than his sister says, "Maddie's not 4", Maddie then says,"mom said I have to lie because she's tired". Completely busted and embarrassed, we were allowed to sheepishly board.. Lesson learned, don't ask your kids to lie.
posted by jennstra at 3:57 PM on February 21, 2015 [9 favorites]

At our Girl Scout Halloween party back in 2012 the other leaders and I thought it would be a neat idea to talk about the upcoming presidential election with the girls, to keep them informed and involved. Started out with, "ok, can anyone tell me what an election is?"

One of my Brownies (7 or 8 years old at the time) raised her hand and said, "it's when Barack Obama runs against some other guy and you vote for Barack Obama and he wins."
posted by phunniemee at 4:08 PM on February 21, 2015 [13 favorites]

My very first political memory: sitting on my mother's lap in 1974, age 4, watching Nixon resign on TV. I said: "I thought he said he wasn't a quitter."
posted by Melismata at 4:14 PM on February 21, 2015 [3 favorites]

When I was a little kid—maybe eight or nine?—the cable guy was at the house for some reason, and I was confused by hearing my mom repeatedly say to him that we only had one television, so I said "But what about the television downstmpfpfm" as she covered my mouth. The cable guy let it slide though, IIRC...

(For any archaeologists and/or aliens reading this, a household had to pay an extra fee per television for cable service in the U.S. at the time, but there were easy technological workarounds; hence the existence of more than one device receiving the cable television signal was often concealed.)

Coincidentally, moments before I saw this AskMe I was watching the February 10th episode of The Nightly Show wherein the host, Larry Wilmore, somewhat ashamedly relates that initially as a parent he would slap his childrens' hands if they misbehaved, until one time he did it to his four-year-old son Johnnie who said "Don't hit Johnnie!"
posted by XMLicious at 4:23 PM on February 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

You might like the "Kids react to" youtube series.
posted by dizziest at 4:32 PM on February 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Just before visiting another family for lunch, it had been impressed upon my 5-year-old niece that she HAD to be polite. Which is why when she was asked if she wanted more food, she said "No please, it's horrible thank you."
posted by glasseyes at 4:41 PM on February 21, 2015 [54 favorites]

There was a Lighter Side strip in Mad with a grandfather buying a plastic toy for his grandchild. He rants about how toys were better made when he was a kid, then to the cashier: "Charge it, please". Grandchild: "So why are you using plastic money?"
posted by brujita at 5:16 PM on February 21, 2015

When I was six, I was at my best friend's house for dinner. I did not care for the food that was offered, but knew that I was to be on my best behavior, so I asked my friend (in what turned out was a very loud stage whisper), "What's the polite way to say I don't like it?" and he loudly stage-whispered back, "'I'm not hungry!'"

His parents heard the whole thing, laughed, and told me it was okay if I didn't like it, which of course made me even more confused about how manners work.
posted by duffell at 5:34 PM on February 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

You should watch Blackish for Marsai Martin's performance.
posted by cda at 5:53 PM on February 21, 2015

Yom Kippur kids service: Rabbi is trying to get the kids to understand what "sin" and "repentance" mean.
Rabbi says, Think of what your parents have taught you about being a good person. What are you supposed to do, and what is a really NOT good thing to do?
Kid in congregation calls out: DON'T TOUCH THE MOUSE TRAP!
(Included because sometimes those directives take on an air of morality we don't mean them to ...but mostly because funny.)
posted by third rail at 5:53 PM on February 21, 2015 [4 favorites]

One day when my red-headed son was barely 4 years old, he was complaining about how people were always talking about his hair. I assured him that no one intended to make him uncomfortable, they were just attracted to the beautiful color. But this response just frustrated him. Apparently, I didn't get how much he was bothered by the attention and he said "you don't understand because you don't have anything beautiful about you."

(For the record, this was 18 years ago, I was 42 and holding up OK re looks, e.g., still being told I resembled Ingrid Bergman. Sadly, I can't recall the last time I heard that. My son is now 22, still has beautiful auburn hair that attracts more than his share of attention. And he still makes me laugh like no one else.)
posted by she's not there at 5:58 PM on February 21, 2015 [16 favorites]

Best answer: This may be cheating, but here goes.
posted by 4ster at 6:25 PM on February 21, 2015

In preparation for my then 3 year old daughters participating in a wedding, we were attending the bride-to-be's church, to get my daughter used to the service and the Pastor. The Pastor had invited all the children to gather at the front of the church, and listen to his message about sin and pardon. Seeing all the other children going up, my daughter went along. The poor Pastor began by explaining that Christ had died on the cross, and then asking the assembled children if anyone knew why he had died. My little atheist stuck up her hand, and LOUDLY announced that she knew why... "He needed a better doctor!" Luckily, my friends church have a sense of humor and her declaration got nothing worse than a few giggles. We are a household of folks who work in the medical fields, so in her world view, the answer made perfect sense. We don't go back to that church now the wedding is over!
posted by Northbysomewhatcrazy at 7:01 PM on February 21, 2015 [6 favorites]

Art Linkletter's Kids say the Darndest Things! has a lot of this stuff (plus illustrations by Charles Schulz).
posted by Quietgal at 7:40 PM on February 21, 2015

The canonical example being the kid in the Emperor's New Clothes.

Did I miss this being mentioned elsewhere?
posted by pseudonick at 8:22 PM on February 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Brit TV show Outnumbered is about 75% this. Usually it's Karen.
posted by BungaDunga at 9:39 PM on February 21, 2015

Ok this is the first thing that popped into my mind, Kids React. They ask kids about a ton of random things including what is spam and how do you make this rotary phone work but my favorite was their reaction to the Cheerios commercial. If you remember a while ago there was a Cheerios commercial that went a bit crazy on the inter-webs. Their reaction is priceless for calling out adults for being total idiots.

Kids React to Controversial Cheerios Commercial - YouTube
posted by boobjob at 3:04 AM on February 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Two stories about adults using flirtatious language with children:

1: My mom had a boyfriend when I was about 7, a slick NYC guy. He once gave me $20, which was a huge deal to a poor kid of a single working mom. I don't know that I'd ever gotten that much money from one person before. I said thank you and excitedly put the money in my piggy bank.
Boyfriend: Now, can I get a thank you hug and kiss?
Me: No, thank you.
Boyfriend, teasing: Oh, if you can't give me a thank you hug, I guess I'll need my money back!
Me: Oh. Okay.

He opened his arms.

I turned around, went back to my room, and handed the money back to him.

(I'm so proud of the fact that I have the kind of mom who both fell over laughing and backed me up 100%. Dude looked like a fool.)

2: My 4-year-old was at the doctor last week getting diagnosed with croup. As we left, a young adorable female nurse whose ear he'd been talking off came by with some stickers. The selection was a little thin and he picked out one with some girl from High School Musical on it, which neither of us know anything about.
Nurse, teasingly: You like girls?
Tchemboy: Only on stickers.
Nurse, now outrageously flirting: What about me? I'm a girl, you like me, right?
Tchemboy: Well, I do like real girls! Girls who are FOUR YEARS OLD. LIKE I AM.
posted by tchemgrrl at 4:42 AM on February 22, 2015 [15 favorites]

If you're open to fiction, Scout Finch from "To Kill a Mockingbird" schools her teacher (who thinks Scout should read at a slower pace, stop reading the newspapers with Atticus) and a potential lynch mob. All due to her honesty.
posted by hippychick at 6:56 AM on February 22, 2015

I'm a science teacher. One of my younger classes (11/12 years old) asked me to explain what homeopathy was once. I did so, and one of them looked at me and said "But why would anyone possibly think that?". Why indeed...
posted by raspberry-ripple at 7:06 AM on February 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

Not sure if that counts, but when I did my internship at a Japanese School, the little boy I worked with the most (because he needed a lot of help) said the darndest things, like:
"You know, for a German, your Japanese is very good. If you were Japanese, though... uh oh."
Or, one time he affectionately ruffled my hair, and I said jokingly: "Hey, you're ruining my hairstyle!"
Kid, dead serious: "What hairstyle?"
posted by LoonyLovegood at 7:15 AM on February 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

How fun! I have a tale from retail:

Christmastime, people are shopping, Little Boy and Dad come in. They are looking for something for Aunt. Dad is talking a blue streak about how Little Boy just cannot keep a secret and will probably tell Aunt what's inside her gift package. Eventually they choose a pretty scarf (IIRC) and check on out. On their way out he is still teasing the kid, loudly.

Dad (teasing voice): So, you HAVE to keep this secret, okay? No spoiling the surprise, that's what Christmas is all about, right, right??"

Boy (being dragged by the hand): No....

Dad (stops): No! What! Well then what is it all about?"


Everyone in the store laughed.
posted by polly_dactyl at 7:39 AM on February 22, 2015

There is an anecdote about my toddler self waiting at an intersection traffic light with my grandma. I got a bit impatient/fidgety and grandma explaining to me that we have to wait for the green light to go pointing out: "Look at that dog with the lady on the other side, how nicely he sits and waits." Me: "I'm no dog, grandma."
posted by ZeroAmbition at 11:33 AM on February 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: When I was little and at the doctor for a booster shot, I got very nervous about it and the doctor told me that his nurse wouldn't cry if he were to give her a shot and I replied, "Well, give it to her, then!"
posted by AJaffe at 3:06 PM on February 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

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