Ah, isn’t language development precious? That is until your dear son or daughter starts using inappropriate words. Last week, as my son was playing, I heard him mumble something under his breath. It sounded like “shtupid mama”. Rather than reacting, I wanted to make sure that what I heard was correct. Oftentimes, he will say something and it is incoherent and I’m unsure of the meaning. Now highly tuned into his play, I waited to see if he would repeat what he said. Not too long after, he said it again - “Shtupid”. He said it in the context of frustration. He was putting together some pieces of a toy and he couldn’t quite get them to fit together. Having not yet encountered such a situation, I did what I felt was appropriate at the time. I told my son that the word was unacceptable and that the next time he used it, he would get a “time out”. Again, very soon after, he used the word again, and had his two minutes of standing in the corner.
Looking back, my reaction probably was unacceptable with dealing with the situation for several reasons. At a little over two and a half, he’s still probably a bit too young to understand bad words. Right now, he’s just a sponge soaking in everything that is said, and imitating other kids and adults in his environment. Also, the punishment I doled out was perhaps way too harsh. For me, I like to use my “time outs” sparingly as a last resort. Besides, I don’t think he really understood that he did anything wrong.
The story continues. The other day, I heard him repeat “stupid” several times over. Rather than exacting threats to get him to stop, I decided to offer him some better choices for words to use in his moment of frustration. “Honey, how about saying “oh dear” or “oh no” if you’re frustrated?” I told him. “Oh dear. Oh no. Oh dear.” He recanted. It was just the reaction I was hoping for. I admit I’m learning this whole mama-thing as I go along, but this situation in particular reminds me that positively adjusting my approach means a world of difference in how my son reacts as well.