violent talk from preschooler? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 9 Old 12-06-2008, 11:47 PM - Thread Starter
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Help, we are at a complete loss.

Our daughter is 3 1/2 but not in preschool. She's home with me most of the time, or she's with my mom, my husband or a lady from church.

When we go to playdates, or have them here she tends to sit and talk with the other moms, or play with one or two of her best friends. They are always within our hearing.

She watches Barney, Dora( on dvd), Clifford, and Curious George, and no more than an hour a day during the week, and no tv on weekends. No commercials, no violence of any sort.

She doesn't have siblings. She doesn't have cousins.

We don't know where this came from, but tonight in the car on the way home from a church dinner she told me if I hit her in the face (never has happened, never will) that she would cut my head off with a saw.

Holy crap.

My husband and I don't know where this could have come from or what to do. I can't seem to find anything online. Does anyone have a recommended site or book or resource because we need to understand what is happening and how to make sure this stops.

Later when I gently tried to talk with her about it, she said if I hit her in the face she'd cut my arms off with a knife.

Otherwise tonight she's been perfectly normal, in a good mood, loving, snuggled in for bedtime stories.

There's no signs of distress or that any problems are going on. She doesn't have temper tantrums. Doesn't hit her friends or show any signs of aggression. In fact she's always taking care of others. If another child is crying, so always goes over to comfort them or see what is wrong.

Sorry if I'm rambling, I just completely freaked out.

We are so attached, my daughter and I and tonight for the first time, I felt as if I was looking at a complete stranger. I don't like this feeling at all.

She says that nobody said those things to her, that she just thought of them herself. I always ask her where she learned things like new words or phrases, and she always tells me, Dad or grandma or that she learned it herself.

It would be easier if I could say she picked this up somewhere else. I'm afraid that it did come from her and I don't know how worried I should be.

If this is at all a normal part of development, please someone point me to something I can read to feel better. There are no other red flags with her behavior at this point, she's really a joy.

Thanks for any help!
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#2 of 9 Old 12-07-2008, 12:15 AM
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It's normal. I can't quote any source, but my son, same age, does it too. I just ignore it or say something like, "wow that sure would hurt" without trying to pursue it an further. Best not to focus too much attention on it IMHO.

Retired Ohio midwife. Mama to my boy E, born 7/05
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#3 of 9 Old 12-07-2008, 12:59 AM
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I'm not a child psychologist, but I'd say it sure sounds normal to me, too. My niece, who is a similar age and has been raised in a similar manner to your dd, was saying recently after she learned that her goldfish had died that, "I'm gonna die, too, and go down the toilet!" It might sound alarming, but kids this age don't understand death or violence, so when they bring it up casually, it can shock their parents.

Here's an even more parallel example that involves another niece, who is now 7 but who was, I think, 4 at the time of this anecdote: when her mom (not an AP!) threatened her at Christmastime that Santa wouldn't bring her any gifts if she was a bad girl, my niece retorted, "Then I'll just cut Santa's head off!" I think my sil was pretty concerned about this statement, but it has become a favorite anecdote in our family by now, as my niece has proven to be a perfectly normal little girl!

Mama to a beautiful girl since May 2007 and a beautiful boy since August 2010! :
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#4 of 9 Old 12-07-2008, 09:24 AM
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Normal. Preschoolers have now heard of death, and the things that can cause it, but don't truly understand it. Therefore they "play it out".

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#5 of 9 Old 12-07-2008, 02:48 PM
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Absolutely normal. My ds, 4, started it at 3 1/2 as well. Do not over-react and make a big deal out of it because then she realizes it gets to you and gets your attention. He, laughably, said one day after JK, "Mom, I'm gonna kill you...what does kill mean?" Because he heard the boys at school rough-housing at recess. I know how scary it is but they are testing words, phrases and reactions.

Wait until the potty talk starts I'm just loving being a poopie-stinky-smelly-head every day!!!
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#6 of 9 Old 12-08-2008, 06:34 AM
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No quotes/cites to share, but I remember reading - more than once - that children at this age experience anxiety about the wholeness of their bodies. They see how things can be taken apart and they realize that when if this would happens to a body it would be dramatic and awful. I can think of some illustrations in books where a body is floating in water, but appears to be dismembered (The Saggy Baggy Elephant has one page like this) that still freak my 6-year-old out. At this age, but even onward they like testing out adult reactions to the awfulest things they can dream up. Perhaps they have been corrected for killing or harming small animals. Some psychologists even theorize (well, I don't know if this theory is still in vogue) that during poop-toilet-training children experience the separation and "loss" of their excrement as a kind of amputation.

As for goldfish and other small animals - especially household pets - IMO it is disrespectful and inappropriate to flush them down the toilet. The toilet is for excrement and "dirty" things. Yes, human excrement can be recycled into nutritious fertilizer, but THAT is a concept to introduce to preschoolers at your own peril (!!!) We bury all small animals outside, wishing them "rest in peace" and giving flowers, and I talk about how the Earth will help new things gain life from their death.
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#7 of 9 Old 12-08-2008, 09:26 AM
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My 3 1/2 year old does this too. She talks about body dismemberment (cutting off arms, etc.), killing other parents, killing other children, stomping our dog until he's dead, and on and on. We actually saw a child psychiatrist. The long and short of what she said was that we have other problems we need to work on, but all the negative stuff that comes out of our dd's mouth is not something to worry about. She said that our dd is a very expressive child and seems to say whatever comes to mind. It didn't concern her at all that what comes to our dd's mind is so disturbing.
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#8 of 9 Old 12-08-2008, 09:33 AM
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My 4 yo does this too and has for a while. I'm glad he's not the only one. I always say something like, geez, that sounds like it would hurt! I wish this talk would go away though.

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#9 of 9 Old 12-08-2008, 05:28 PM
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I just attended a lecture on developmental power and empowering. (I'm on a clinical psychology track).

Simply put, the most power a child can feel is to point their finger at you and say "Bang!" and you fall over, "dead"... Or threaten to cut off your head with a big cutting tool, and you hold your throat and say "Eegad!".

She sounds very bright, and might react well to light conversations and/or play, in this same vein.

Dd, 4 in November, started threatening stuff like that around 3. I'd often reply (in a silly voice, like a pirate or something), "If you keep it up, I'll break off your fingers and fry 'em up like shrimp." Then she says "If you keep it up, I'll break off your head!" To which I reply with an equally sassy tone "Well, if you keep it up I'll break off your shoes!" We eventually deteriorate to socks and pillows and inanimate objects, and much giggling.

Make it a silly thing, offering her power without empowering violence.

Talk is talk, but when actions such as hitting, etc, crop up, we call a spade a spade. "Violence is not allowed in our home."
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