What did you say?

Lilah’s been picking up words.
Last week it was stupid. I know she heard it on Aurthur, a PBS show, and she used it while describing the toilet or something.
I told her it wasn’t a nice word and she responded that she was just joking. A response she uses often lately when she’s told not to say something, or do something or when we say no to a request. We think it’s her way of not being emotionally invested in something.
Like tonight it was “Daddy can you tell stories?”
“Not tonight it’s also my bedtime right now.”
“I was just joking.”

Back to the stupid comment. I explained it wasn’t a nice word and she got a little upset by it. (Upset in the got her feelings hurt or felt really bad for doing something the wrong way and began crying.) I tried to explain it just wasn’t a nice word and to not use it again. I knew she was just repeating what she heard and I tried to not be harsh. Today I heard.
“blah blah blah, you idiot.”
(It was said in the same tone she says “you silly mommy.”)
I wasn’t sure at first what she said. So I asked her what she said and she sensed that it was something she shouldn’t have said and replied nothing, or I was “just joking”.
I asked her if she said idiot and after a couple exchanges said yes she said idiot.
I was a little firm at first. Mostly just “Lilah that’s not a nice word and you don’t say idiot.”
She again responded she was just joking.
I tried to explain to her that it was okay that she used that word because she didn’t know it was a mean word and that it’s fine to make mistakes.
She again got upset after I corrected her on using the word idiot and I tried to comfort her once more.

I’m pretty sure, she’s just hearing words, not always knowing what they mean and not always knowing they’re bad, though she might know it’s a rude or mean word, hence the denial of using idiot, and is saying them to figure out what’s acceptable and what’s not.
At least that’s what I think about her new vocabulary.

But I’m just not sure how to react to her “I’m just joking” comment.
It bothers me that she uses it all the time.

I also don’t know how to react to her sensitivity to making a mistake.
She’s always had a hard time with making mistakes.
Like now, I’m teaching her how to recognize words and sometimes she’d rather not try to read a new, yet familiar word, than make a mistake and I’m afraid she’ll eventually be turned off of reading. (We’ve bought some phonics book and I plan on using them so she can learn the letters and what sounds and start figuring out what the word might be rather then relying on sight recognition like we are now.)

How does a parent delicately deal with a sensitive child?

One Response to “What did you say?”

  1. Jonathan Blake Says:

    Personally, I think we should just translate “I was just joking” into “please don’t be made at me” or “I’m disappointed but I don’t want to feel hurt”, whatever is appropriate for the situation. We should probably ask for clarification. “Do you feel bad for making a mistake?” “Are you disappointed?” Trying to correct the phrase focuses on the symptom, not the cause.

    I hope we can help her learn to take chances, to take reasonable risks, and to not be too protective of herself.