Etiquette School is in session! > "What an interesting assumption."

making assumptions about family relationsships

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mom2four:
Older DS aged 16 just returned from a trip by long distance bus and ferry to visit my parents with younger DD aged 4. He was a bit shocked because several people had assumed that he was his sister's father. This happens to older DD aged 19 a lot (someone assuming she is the mother of her sister) and she really hates it. You have to be careful with teenagers but generally I don't think there is anything rude about assuming that an adult who is with a child is that child's parent. That may not be a case but it can be difficult to completely avoid any assumptions. Asking doesn't necessarily help in my opinion. If someone is offended by an assumption they will most likely also be offended if you ask. It's the mere thought that counts. At least I know DD was offended when she - then aged 15 - was waiting for DH in a doctor's waiting room and the doctor came out and asked if she was his wife.

The difficulty also occurs if you don't know if two people are a couple or maybe father and daughter. If you have to make a guess or ask I think it is better to assume or ask if they are a couple. If you are wrong you have most likely only offended the daughter. If you make the assumption the other way around you will offend both if you are wrong.

I suppose the etiquette correct thing is to never assume anything about the relationships of others but it can be a bit difficult in real life. When do you think an assumption or a question about a relationship is rude? An example of an assumption or question I find rude and strange but have been met with several times is that because of the age difference between my children now 19, 16, 12 and 4, the youngest must have a different father than her siblings. This is not the case but is probably in part caused by the fact that DH looks much younger than me (he isn't)

Lisbeth:
It's rude when it's accompanied by nasty looks or insulting comments.

A scenario where, say, a receptionist in a doctor's office simply assumes that the older child is the parent of the younger child isn't rude in and of itself.  But if someone made a snarky remark about teenage kids having s*e*x and being the parent of a kid, that would be rude.

Dazi:
Everyone always assumes my brother is my boyfriend/husband.  We find it funny now, not so much when we were teens.


--- Quote from: KeenReader on September 06, 2010, 12:32:22 PM ---It's rude when it's accompanied by nasty looks or insulting comments.

A scenario where, say, a receptionist in a doctor's office simply assumes that the older child is the parent of the younger child isn't rude in and of itself.  But if someone made a snarky remark about teenage kids having s*e*x and being the parent of a kid, that would be rude.

--- End quote ---

True...also sometimes it is really difficult for some people to judge age.

wolfie:
Honestly I can\'t come up with a situation where it would be appropriate to ask. You might be curious but for the most part it isn\'t any of your business and it doesn\'t matter what the relationship between two people is. Even all the cases i can come up with don\'t really pan out. Receptionist at the doctor\'s office? nope - relationship doesn\'t matter - she just needs to check you in. The only cases i can really come up with are in the ER or other emergency type situations.

Rosgrana:
I can see situations where it's appropriate to ask. For example, if someone brings a child to join the library, I have to ask if they are the parent/guardian - only someone with parental responsibility can give permission for the child to have internet access. In the Doctor scenario above, parents have more rights to information than any other adult accompanying a child. That said, the asking has to be done politely and non-judgementally.

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