Monday, September 27, 2010

Potty Talk

Oh Sh#%! Da*& it! F#@*7! Hearing these words pop out of the mouth of a preschooler (or anyone else) can make hair stand straight out of one’s head. Needless to say, it usually happens at an inopportune moment such as a social gathering, in class, or at the dinner table! The 2-year-old shouting “Stupid head” or “Butthead” at passing cars usually triggers an instant alarm of fear as the parent realizes this could result in a carpool expulsion. Children are fascinated with “bad” words, and learn them quicker than their assigned vocabulary words. The initial response of laughter that the child receives is usually more than enough to fuel continuous repetitions of the offending language. The worst part is this negative behavior will take exponentially longer to break!

The issue raised is not just limited to curse words. Bathroom or potty language and words which EtiKids refers to as S-words (stupid, sh*t, sucks, and shut up) can also be a problem faced by a parent or teacher. Older children may think it is “cool” to use words that describe bodily functions and noises, while younger children mimic what they hear. Sometimes repeating bathroom words is a way to get a reaction or gain attention. Realize it is a way of experimenting with language. So, if trying out new words and learning how to communicate are part of learning social skills and manners, what is the best way to re-train a potty mouth child?

Displaying a lack of interest is the simplest tactic to phase out incessant repetition of naughty expressions. Without strong feedback, most preschoolers won’t bother repeating these terms. Why bother if you can’t get a rise out of parents?

Ask the child what the word means. Discourage use of words whose meanings are unknown. Explain why some words are offensive and hurtful to other people. X-rated vocabulary and forbidden words are not “cool” and can be banned by parents because they are inappropriate in almost all situations.

Restrict bathroom words to the restroom. After a while, the child typically finds it tiresome to run back and forth to the lavatory just to talk about bodily functions and spill out potty words.

Control word categories that are on the fringe. Growing up, the use of "S-words" was not tolerated. These expressions included: stupid, sh*t, sucks and shut up. Although the latter has become an acceptable phrase of surprise (or synonym for no kidding), telling someone to “shut up” is perceived as rude and insensitive.

Monitoring TV programs can limit some exposure to words with derogatory meanings such as “butthead”, which became popular terminology following MTV's programming. Remind children that using insulting words or expressions can become a habit, slipping out without any warning and be embarrassing for everyone.

Although the word hate has different meanings, we mention it here. It can be used in a spiteful manner and is a learned behavior. Shouting “I hate you!” to a parent is universal to children all over the world. A little 4-year-old friend repeated her mother’s favorite quote, “Hate is a very strong word, and we should never use it!” The More You Know public service campaign, (NBC 2003) reminded us, "Hate is a four-letter word. So is love. Which word will you teach your child?"

Finally, the very best way to diminish the use of negative words is to set a positive example for children. Replace curse words with alternative phrases such as “Darn it! Dang! Good Grief! Geepers Creepers! Rats! Shucks!”

Let us know your favorite expression! Or most inappropriate story. :) Contact us at Dear Julie or with your stories.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hole's Not Big Enough?

People come in a variety of colors, sizes and shapes and often face difficulties during their lifetime. Some of these challenges may be emotional while others are more physical and visually apparent. It always seems children are most astute in noting all our differences. Some comments are positive observations: a teacher’s new hairdo or mom’s new dress. More often than not, these comments are made verbally at higher than normal decibels, in extremely trafficked areas, and simply embarrassing. “Why is that man so much smaller than me?” “Look at the lady with no hair!” Certainly there are a multitude of examples to share that just “pop out” of a child’s mouth. How do you address the child’s remark without squelching curiosity, teach an important social skill and maintain a semblance of sanity?

First, if the comment was audible, offer apologies immediately. “I would like to apologize for the comment that was made,” is one way to express your regret. This clearly serves as an example of sensitivity, provides an atmosphere of understanding and models a social skill. Softly assure the child everything will be explained in a more appropriate place. Then address the issue immediately. Using a concrete example helps children conceptualize information with greater ease. Find a quiet place where the child can sit and ask a few questions. More often than not, a simple explanation is all that is required. Don’t worry the beet red color disappears quickly!

Second, open the discussion by asking about feelings. “What would it feel if a person said something unkind or hurt your feelings?” Offer the child an opportunity to whisper something softly if they need to ask a question. This way feelings won’t be hurt. Sheryl Eberly, author of 365 Manners Kids Should Know, explains that “people with disabilities don’t want to create a scene wherever they go and shouldn’t have to explain their situation to strangers.” Throughout the EtiKids program, focus is placed on similarities people share and identifying the way differences enhance our environment and our world.

Many school programs now offer sensitivity training by using wheelchairs, earplugs to simulate situations facing people with disabilities. Ask the child to use one hand or keep eyes closed while picking up their toys to experience a little of the physical challenges that exist.

Third, examine personal perspectives. Many times we are unaware of nonverbal information transmitted to others. Any actions (eye rolling, head shaking, frown or scowl) or comments which highlight negative perceptions are easily and rapidly adapted by children. Dr. Haim Ginott compares children to wet cement. “Whatever falls on them makes an impression.” Why are bad habits learned so much quicker than good ones? Opening the door for someone in a wheelchair, helping someone who can’t reach an item on a top shelf in the grocery store, or complimenting someone’s new outfit can help a child see what positive social norms dictate.

Children aren’t the only ones making mistakes. Adults sometimes share inappropriate comments and may benefit from a manners makeover too. “You are really that old?” “Why did you get fired from your job?” “Sally is so fat!” Taking the time to consider how a comment will impact someone else can prevent hurt feelings and serve as a model to children. When we err, the quickest, most effective and easiest way to remedy a situation is just to say, “I’m sorry”.

Share your harrowing story with us at Dear Julie or Remember Mark Twain’s quote, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sleepover and Out!

Remember how scary it was to sleep at a friend’s house for the first time? There was fear of not knowing where the bathroom was, waking up in the middle of the night and wanting to go home. What if food tasted funny or you got a bellyache in the middle of the night? Even more worries surfaced when the bathrobe, dangling on the door, appeared to be a ghost. Sometime during the day, while playing with lots of different toys, the idea of turning the playdate to a sleepover seemed like a good idea. Now what?

Pack those pajamas! Create a simple list so children can participate in the packing process. This allows the child to become an active, willing and responsible participant. It also helps kids know what they will have to unpack when returning home. A teddy bear or favorite book can help ease the transition. Packing personal care items will be appreciated by the host, who won’t have to supply toothpaste, toothbrush, or other toiletries.

Dress in the best manners
: Leave bodily noises like farting or burping for the bathroom. Play fair and include the host’s runny-nose brother or squealing sister in games. Secrets are for sissies and make others feel bad. Remember to ask before using the phone or taking something out of the refrigerator. Absolutely and positively respect privacy. Resist the urge to peek or snoop into the belongings of other people.

Neatness counts.
Ask the host where to place the overnight bag. Encourage children to keep all their clothes and toys in or on the suitcase. Leaving shoes and stinky underwear all over the house will not earn a return invitation. A sleepover is not a scavenger hunt for dirty clothes or an excuse to mess up someone else’s room!

"With a butterfly kiss and a ladybug hug, sleep tight little one like a bug in a rug." (Author: Unknown) Bedtime usually comes right in the middle of a favorite TV show or winning game. Parents know that chattering and giggling are part of every sleepover, but they won’t want to be on patrol all night long. When the host parent says “Bedtime for teddy bears and all other little children,” the guest should start to get ready for bed, even if the host child runs around the house like a wild animal!

Not all families are the same. As a guest, one should keep an eye on the customs of the house. Politely follow the bedtime ritual of the house, which may include bedtime snack, teeth brushing, and bedtime story.

EtiKids stresses the use of please, thank you, excuse me and sorry in all social situations. Reinforcing these words at home helps them become an integral part of the child’s vocabulary. “Thank you for inviting me to sleep at your house” can be followed up with a written note to encourage politeness, writing and social skills. Remember, even though a child may not always express their gratitude at home, they are capable of thanking their host, learning to be a gracious guest and helping with simple and caring tasks.

With all of the helpful information above, your child is ready to put it into practice. As stated in Maurice Sendak’s book, Where the Wild Things Are, "Let the wild rumpus begin!"

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


What is it about gossips that make them so bad? After all, it is only words that are used in gossiping (sharing a rumor or personal story belonging to someone else). Once words are spoken, they cannot be recycled, erased, collected, expunged, obliterated or changed. Passing along information spoken in confidence or that may have heard from someone else can hurt another person very badly. Sometimes it can backfire and put the person who spread the story in trouble too!

Being sensitive to the feelings of others can be a useful guide. Putting oneself in the shoes of another can help understand how it may feel! Sharing information that is personal, health or job related should be left to the individual if and when they are ready to share the information.

Some quick tips...

If the information seems too personal, keep it to yourself.
If the information is hurtful, don’t pass it along.
If the information serves a malicious purpose, break the chain.
If the information can affect someone’s livelihood, don’t repeat it.

Leticia Baldridge, author of the Complete Guide to Executive Manners cautions, “Think before you participate in gossip, either by adding to it or by reinforcing it, even if you believe it to be true.” Time is spent building self esteem and making good decisions; choose what appropriate dialogue. Emphasis is placed on doing the right thing such as refusing to listen to the idle chatter, redirecting conversation to other topics, walking away or taking a leadership role by defending the target of the gossip by saying, “I don’t think Jane or Bob would want this to be discussed”.

Parents can set an example for their children by diffusing gossip-y conversations. Change the topic to something less volatile. Explain that the information may be incorrect and should not be further transmitted. Discuss feelings regarding communication of personal information. Clarify how easily rumors begin and the damaging effects they can have on a person (consider role-playing). If this seems confusing, perhaps a class that enables children to focus on the positive development of their social skills, such as learning to converse, rather than the spread of vicious gossip is in order. Contact EtiKids for more information!

Think of your mother's words: if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything!