Teaching Your Child to be Tactful

Children can be brutally honest and tactless. Many years ago, I asked my older daughter what she thought of the dinner I had cooked. She thought for a few seconds and then told me, "It's halfway between good and awful." Brutal honesty. These days, she tells me that it's fine. It's her code for "I don't like it, but I won't tell you that because I don't want to hurt your feelings."


Tactfulness is the art of using discretion and sensitivity when speaking and relating to those around you. It is a great quality that helps one avoid awkward situations, and become a better friend to everyone. Children are born quite the opposite of this trait, but it is easier for them to understand as they grow older.

If your child can learn to be tactful as a young person, it will save her from being misunderstood and from hurting others' feelings. Here is how you can help your child to become a tactful individual who is comfortable in her conversations both with friends and strangers.

Teaching Your Child About Telling the Truth

Our children need to know that honesty is important, and must be taught to tell the truth. Give them a foundation in what being honest is all about, and what it isn’t. Some people mistakenly believe that being honest means they can say whatever they want, whenever they want to. This isn't true, and it can be hurtful and harmful to the people around them. Truthfulness and tact are excellent partners, as they balance each other.

Educating Your Child About the Need for Tact

Talk to your child about how necessary tact is. Explain that when we fail to use tact, people’s feelings can be hurt, and the health of our relationships can be put at risk. Tell your child about situations where tact is essential and that it can be necessary for the safety of others. For example, in the relationships that world leaders hold with each other, tactful speech is crucial. Angry, blustery speech can provoke actions that could have been avoided with less hasty speech. There are also many other times where there is a necessity for using soft words rather than being completely blunt in a person’s speech.

Give Examples of Where Tact Was Not Used

Talk to your children about situations where tact was not used. Discuss the consequences to the individual who did not use tact, and to the one who was on the receiving end. Explain that Aunt Margaret probably felt bad when cousin Bill told her that her dress was ugly, and how others may then have seen cousin Bill as being uncaring. Talk about what could have been done differently in the situation.

Give Examples of Where Tact Was Used

Be sure to also point out situations where tact was used well, and the positive consequences that came from it. Speak about how a friend may have held off an argument through the use of tact and kind words, instead of letting all his anger out. Talk about any world leaders who are known for their peaceful acceptance of others, and how this trait has far-reaching positive effects. Point out all those people who excel in this area, and discuss what you can learn from each of them.

Becoming a tactful person is a journey. Sometimes we hurt people with our words and we don’t even realize it. Make a point of helping your child grow in this area, and everyone your child comes in contact with will benefit from your effort.

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About the Author


Suzanne is a 14-year homeschooling veteran, whose older daughter was accepted into every university she applied to. She is passionate about supporting moms through every stage of homeschooling, and also works with them to find ways of generating an income while they homeschool.

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