A follow-up question is that my 5 year old daughter is now repeating something she heard a friend say: “I’m going to kill you.” I don’t think she really understands what this means or that it is a threatening, scary thing to hear. She is exploring what happens when she says these words, because she heard her friend repeatedly say it.
I would greatly appreciate your thoughts about how best to handle this situation. If I tell my daughter not to say a particular word, she is more likely to say it. So when she says hurtful, scary things like, ” I’m going to kill you”, “I hate you” or “you’re mean”, I want to handle the situation in a way that will most effectively reduce the behavior rather than unwittingly increase it.
My impulse is to to do something that might actually give the situation too much energy, and therefore cause her to explore saying these things more. My impulse is to take her over to the side of the room and talk with her about how these words can hurt, to tell her that if it continues we will have to leave the playroom, and to talk about what she can do now to help the other child’s feelings. And if the mean words continue, to follow up by taking her out of the playroom and telling her that we can try again tomorrow.
Perhaps when we are both feeling calm, we can again talk about what happened: what hurtful words are, how she has felt when hurtful things were said to her, and how we can protect our friends’ feelings. Maybe she said those mean things when she was upset about something, and could instead have told the other child what happened that she didn’t like. Perhaps I can use puppets to reenact the scenario and talk with my daughter about what the different puppets might be feeling and, if the mean words were triggered by a conflict, how they could manage their conflict.
I would love to hear your thoughts about how to address this situation.
With much appreciation,