A toddler’s view of language

The 4-year-old showed a keen grasp of linguistics / poetic language this weekend:

The Little Man has been out of his mind with anticipation this weekend, and also from the heat.  As a result, he’s been spending some time in his room contemplating strategies for expressing his frustration.

Anyway, I was trying to explain that it’s ok to *be* mad or disappointed or frustrated, but that he needs to find less destructive ways of expressing it.  Don’t throw the toy, just say that you’re crabby.

He listened pretty carefully, even using some active listening skills he’s been practicing.  But, after about five minutes or so, he said: “Well, I’m not going to say that ‘I’m angry’ or ‘I’m frustrated.’  I’m going to say ‘You’re stupid’ or ‘I hate you’ instead.”  I asked him why, since those tend to land him in his room.

His answer: “When I say ‘stupid’ or ‘hate,’ I don’t mean it.  But those words are more violent, and they help me get over being mad–they get it out.”  It’s like he produced a whole theory of cursing.  He’s never uttered an expletive, but I’m half-tempted to teach him a couple, just to depersonalize and diversify his anger-management strategies.

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