Monday, August 01, 2005

I Hate Daddy

The Event:

Last Thursday night we were all in the playroom and my almost-three year-old daughter said, "Daddy is yucky. Daddy is stinky. I hate Daddy."

The Initial Response:

My wife sternly told my daughter, "Your are NEVER to say that again!! Do you know how much these words hurt Daddy's feelings??"

To this, my daughter started crying hysterically.

My Response:

I knew my daughter would be unreceptive to my words if she was still inconsolable, so I used a half-dollar coin as a tool to teach her.

After retrieving the coin, I asked my crying daughter if she wanted something special. This immediately broke the ice, and she dried her tears and came over to me on the couch to see what I had for her.

I showed her the coin in my hand and explained that I was giving her this coin, the Talk Nicely Coin, on the condition that she never used the word "hate" again - a word too harsh for such a sweet little girl.

Instead of using the word "hate", I instructed her to use the phrase "I don't like" in its place. I also told her that I would immediately take the coin from her if she ever used the word "hate" again.

From the look in her eyes, I could tell that she understood.

Feedback Request:

How would you have handled this situation?


At August 1, 2005 at 9:44:00 AM EDT, Blogger torontopearl said...

Even as a mom, I'm not good at doling out advice in parenting...I'm continually picking up advice myself.

But I did like your approach with the coin; it is sort of like a "swear jar" that some people swear by!

"Hate" is a very strong word and as adults we know it can cause anti-semitism, wars and the like. "I do not like" is much gentler.

I think we readers need to know if your feisty redhead just blurted that out for no reason, or if you had said something to her or barred her from doing something. If we know that, it might allow us to advise you better.

Your wife was also right: a 3-year-old ought to understand about "feeling hurt" and "being sad" so the fact that her words hurt you and your wife reprimanding her that way would lead to an outburst of tears: maybe the fear as a result of hearing your wife's tone, as well as knowing that she "hurt" her abba.

At August 1, 2005 at 9:49:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Pearl: I always appreciate your sage advice.

My daughter just blurted these words out of the blue. We were playing just beforehand.

Perhaps she lumps the word "hate" in with "yucky" and "stinky" - words she uses in a funny tone - simply to indicate displeasure.

At August 1, 2005 at 10:29:00 AM EDT, Blogger torontopearl said...

ASJ, thank you for the compliment.

Okay, here's my advice: you & Mrs. A Simple Jew did good...I'm just not sure about the bit about announcing that she "never" use the word again. "Never" is a long time or sometimes incomprehensible to a child. Perhaps just "I do not want to hear you use that word again. It's not a nice word..."

You could also do the routine: "It made Abba feel sad that you called him bad names and that you don't really like you think that if your friend _______ said that to you, that you would like it? Or if Emma or I said it to you or your brother? How do you think you would feel...?"

In other words, throw the ball back in her court, do the role reversal scenario -- then she might better understand (excuse the pun, but it just came to me) "both sides of the coin"!

Get used to the stereotypical red-haired, red flared temper!

At August 1, 2005 at 10:44:00 AM EDT, Blogger Jack's Shack said...


I think that you handled it appropriately. At this age the kids don't totally understand that what they are saying/doing hurts feelings.

Sitting her down like that was smart.

At August 1, 2005 at 10:49:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, no! I don't think she was indicating real displeasure or any kind of negative emotion at all! She's learning acceptable speech. I'm not a mother myself, but I've spent much time babysitting children this age, and I've come across this behavior a lot. Kids will hear certain words and phrases from adults or other children, and they will not understand the full weight of its meaning - but what they do understand is that the word/phrase is "loaded" and elicits a different reaction than they are accustomed to. They are curious about what gets these different reactions out of people, so they try the phrases out themselves - it's how they learn about words and phrases that are outside their current everyday range of speech. These phrases/words are usually hurtful or involve swear words (or they're funny jokes that aren't hurtful at all and get a laughter reaction, but that's a different matter). For example, once when I was getting a 2 1/2 year old dressed for the day, she was singing a song and then stopped abruptly, smiled and blurted "YOU'RE FAT!" I wasn't fat, so this wasn't a matter of describing the world around her; she knew that this phrase is "loaded" and she was trying it out on me, testing reactions. When you show a genuine reaction to these hurtful "just testing" words, you teach the child acceptable speech. How else would they learn this? I think you handled this wonderfully.


At August 1, 2005 at 1:05:00 PM EDT, Blogger Lvnsm27 said...

Heidi, that's a very good analysis.

ASJ, I think that when this happens, you should find out Why she's saying it. Like, is she just trying out words or she does she actually feel hurt? It's good to know so you know what to do.

At August 1, 2005 at 4:21:00 PM EDT, Blogger PsychoToddler said...

Heidi brings up a good point. Kids don't know what's appropriate or what isn't. My kids have often embarrassed us and guests with the "She's fat" line, and all we can do is tell them factually that that is wrong and they shouldn't say those things because they hurt people's feelings.

In the absence of any prior directives, it sometimes sinks in.

With regards to the "I hate Abba" routine, I usually start crying and telling them that my feelings are hurt. Then they hit me over the head with something.

At August 1, 2005 at 5:03:00 PM EDT, Blogger Pilot Mom said...

I think how you handled it was great. The only thing I would have added would have been to point out how that was not honoring to you as a parent, helping her to see and understand how G-d expects her attitude toward her parents to be. It's never too soon to reinforce that.

At August 1, 2005 at 8:03:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Pearl, Jack, Heidi, lvnsm27, Psycho Toddler, Pilot Mom: Thank you all for your feedback. I truly appreciate your insight.

At August 1, 2005 at 10:08:00 PM EDT, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

I think you did a great job!

The coin was very good idea - My wife has been a Kindergarten teacher for the past fourteen odd years, and she always says that it's very important that a lesson should connect with something tangible for the child. It's a very age appropriate for you to have used the coin as you did - I'll try to remember it myself!

We have a policy at home, that words like this (hate, stupid, idiot, kill, etc.) are not ever used. Even words like "bad" should not be used, rather, it is better to say "not good." The Torah uses the phrase "Behaimos asher einenu tehora - animals that are not pure," when it could easily have said "beheimos tamayos - contaminated animals." Chassidus explains that the Torah uses the extra verbiage to teach us the importance of speaking (acting, emulating...) in a refined manner -- even in seemingly trivial matters. This is actually a primary lesson in Chassidus, and this is also the source for discouraging children to dress up on Purim as Haman, or other negative costumes ... but I digress.

Like you did, we give the kids alternative words to express their feelings. If one of the kids uses an unacceptable word, we tell them very seriously that these words are not used in this family. Sometimes a child might say something was "stupid," and my wife will correct him/her and say "you mean it was silly" (my kids already correct each other at this point).

Kids learn from example. If we model the proper behavior, and they see that WE don't use these words, then they understand early on, that certain words are not used -- and when we tell them not to use them, our words have credibility ... I do see that this works! (I don't know if this works with adolescents ;-) )

You should have loads of yiddishe nachas from your chevra.

At August 1, 2005 at 11:38:00 PM EDT, Anonymous danithew said...

I think the way you handled this experience with your child was great. What a cute story ...

At August 2, 2005 at 5:10:00 AM EDT, Anonymous yikes said...

I wonder if perhaps outlawing words (not four letter words. those are obviosuly assur) is going to solve the this word is assur, I'll find another...what will be left to say?

Perhaps you can look for the deeper causes...

At August 2, 2005 at 7:38:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Chabakuk Elisha and Danithew: Thanks for your comments!

Yikes: How do I "look for the deeper causes"?

At August 2, 2005 at 10:46:00 AM EDT, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...


Um, I think you missed my point.
It's not about "outlawing," it's about educating. I don't propose giving everyone a list of "dont's" - the idea is to try to raise children to be refined. This is not simply a Jewish concept - it used to normal among civilized people to try and raise one's children to be as refined as possible. I realize that ideal was discarded in the 60's, but that doesn't mean that it's still not a good idea.
By the way, based on your logic, why are 4 letter words ok to ban? It seems we agree, but differ on where to draw the line.

As to your question "what will be left to say?"
That's the idea! Hopefully they will use alternative, refined, words - i.e. "silly" instead of "stupid," "not good" instead of "bad," "dislike" instead of "hate," etc.

My wife does have a technique for the kids to use: If they want to use the word hate, they can say "I hate Amalek" (they like that).


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