What She Says: "Amanda is stupid."
What's Going On Most of the time, preschoolers don't intend to hurt someone's feelings. If you don't let your kid have that extra cookie at dessert, she may just call you stupid or dumb because she knows it'll get your attention. Don't worry, you're not raising a mean girl. Many 3- and 4-year-olds are just starting to realize that it's wrong to say these words. In fact, lots of kids in preschool end up thinking that stupid is the bad S-word that they are not supposed to say. However, they still haven't mastered empathy so they don't always understand how certain words can make someone else feel.
How to Respond When an unkind word comes out of your child's mouth, step in and let her know that words like that are off-limits. Help her understand that it can make people sad and hurt when they are called names. Say, "How would you feel if Amanda called you stupid? Can you think of a nicer way to explain why you're frustrated?"
As with swears, make an effort to avoid using these words yourself. Encourage your child to use appropriate talk by praising her for expressing herself without resorting to mean words when she's upset. And remember that she's constantly taking in new information. Words that transfix her today will eventually lose their appeal.
Originally published in the November 2011 issue of Parents magazine.