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HI all,
My 5 year old son functions very much on an emotional plain. If something is upsetting him, he rarely says it out loud, but rather starts to act up as his flag to get our attention. We've done a lot of work with him to get him to express what he's feeling. The behaviour is still his first way to cope for the most part, but he is able to voice what's bothering him when I sit him down. And usually the behaviour vanishes after we discuss things. At school and with his grandparents, who are his primary caregivers when we are at work, he is rarely this way. He's one of the calmest in his class actually. He tends to save any anxieties or feelings for me especially. The behaviour emerges once we get home and we have to help him figure it out. For example, they had a substitute teacher recently at school, and he was acting up most of the evening until I sat him down to talk it out. He was upset as his teacher hadn't given them a heads up that she wouldn't be there.
Since school has started, he has begun using words like butt, poopy, butt head, poopy head, etc. He uses them a lot. And it's nothing for me to hear dozens of times a day "mama's a poopy head" or something like that, in his little sing-song. He just randomly sings it, or when I need to help him reign in his behaviour.
My question is: is this just normal for this age and I need to just ignore it? Or do I keep trying to get him to break this habit? Interestingly, it's mostly his little brother and I that get this name calling. His grandfather was totally surprised to hear that he does this, so obviously they don't hear it. I try to use a gentle parenting approach and I especially like Dr Laura Markhams approach to things. When he's having a really active day for name calling, I will sit him down, talk about how being called names makes me feel sad, etc and reinforce the need to find other ways of dealing with big feelings. I've even used his sing-songs in the middle of a chat when he's not being serious, to hopefully help him recognize the feelings these names evoke (and totally talking it out with him). I've lately tried time outs as I honestly don't know what else to do. They just upset him more and don't help the situation. He loves to watch tv, so tonight I told him the tv would be off for the rest of the day anytime he calls any of us names.
I really want to deal with this in a gentle parenting way. But I don't know what else to do. I do feel emotionally exhausted when I get called names all day. I'm reacting to this, which probably isn't helping. Any help seeing this from another angle would be really helpful.
Thanks!
 

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Sounds frustrating! I don't know if this goes with your parenting style, but on the advice of another mom I know, I made a "privilege chart" for my son, with things like watching cartoons on the ipad which he is normally allowed to do (within a limited time frame), and the privileges can be lost for rude/problematic behavior. I try to first explain why I need him to stop whatever he's doing, then if that is not sufficient, I will warn him that if he does it again he will lose a privilege, and then if necessary I do follow through on that (crossing out the privilege with a dry erase marker on the chart and not allowing him to watch the cartoon or whatever). In my experience it has caused less arguing and grief than time outs. It also makes it easier for me to stay calm, because personally I find giving time outs to be stressful!
 

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Just ignore it. It's a phase. Walk away. No charts. No bribes. No attention.

Or do what I do and embrace it. My kids and I talk smack to each other all the time. We're not name-calling in a mean way and no one ever gets hurt feelings. But we all think poop talk is silly so we do it a lot. They're 13 and 21 now. LOL
 
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I think that it all sounds very age appropriate, and that you are doing a great job of teaching him to recognize his feelings and use his words. It's a process, and even though it can seem crazily repetitive, it really is how they learn.


As far as the name calling, I think the previous posters show how much variance there is to what is acceptable in families. He is old enough to start learning about code switching. Different social rules apply in different situations. Rather than treating the potty talk like a bad thing, you might talk about when he uses them, who he uses them with, if kids get in trouble for using them in certain context, etc. Children often use one mode of communication when adults aren't listening, and another when adults are listening. Being honest with our kids about that can help them sort out when certain words are OK and when they aren't. It's a more honest approach than "never say 'butt head' because it is very rude," when clearly, in some of the social context he spends his day, it's funny.


Since these are new terms for him, he may be experimenting with them to see how they work for him. It sounds like right now you are getting caught up in them, and therefore teaching him that these words give him a form of power. I suspect that the more you are able to see the words as having NOTHING to do with you and disengage, the sooner he will stop using them around you. Rather than getting caught up in it, do what blessed with boys suggest -- walk away. Right now this is getting him all sorts of attention and power. I suspect that when it gets him nothing, he will stop it around you.
 

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Since these are new terms for him, he may be experimenting with them to see how they work for him. It sounds like right now you are getting caught up in them, and therefore teaching him that these words give him a form of power. I suspect that the more you are able to see the words as having NOTHING to do with you and disengage, the sooner he will stop using them around you. Rather than getting caught up in it, do what blessed with boys suggest -- walk away. Right now this is getting him all sorts of attention and power. I suspect that when it gets him nothing, he will stop it around you.
Wow, this is hard because I know how tough this kind of thing can be to live with, but I think this is so true.
 

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Right now, my 5 yo boy thinks poopy talk is funny, and periodically makes potty-humour jokes. I try not to react to it too much. His laughter is infectious, so I find myself smiling, even if the source of his humour is gross.
He doesn't usually call me names, but I think he engages in some forms of code switching. Behaving well when we're out, but suddenly misbehaving when he's at home, or when Dad comes home. Linda on the Move has probably hit the nail on the head; this kind of behaviour gets him attention, and he feels safe to behave this way when he's at home. I try to tell DH to disengage with him when he starts acting up, but don't know how to explain to him that this is the right thing to do. Is it right to "ignore" bad behaviour? I find if DS is having a meltdown, and I just calmly carry on with what I'm doing, not talking to him too much, but also not isolating him, he calms down. Pretty soon something else catches his interest, and he forgets about being upset. Then, sometimes, he can talk about his feelings. But somehow I have a hard time explaining this to DH, who doesn't see how this will help him to learn good behaviour or to develop self-control. DH isn't mean to him or anything, but he and DS engage in too much back-talk when this is going on, and it rarely goes well. I find trying to talk to DS when he's upset only makes things worse. Sometimes, I'm at a loss of what to do when his behaviour isn't good. I can't memorize all the parenting advice I've read, or go consult a book when he's having a tantrum. But I do hope he outgrows it and learns to manage his emotions better as he gets older. Disengaging is so far the best technique I've been able to use.

Best of luck with all your efforts! I think you're doing a great job if you're able to sit down and talk with him.
 

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I remember picking up some more vulgar words and ideas when I started kindergarten and trying them out at home. My parents told me firmly that they did not like hearing that and then tried to ignore it. Eventually I dropped it, but it must have been annoying for them to wait it out!

My son's preschool had a rule that words pertaining to private parts and bodily functions could be said only in the bathroom. A child saying these things for fun would be directed to the bathroom--"Come back when you are done talking about that." It worked very well. Maybe you could use this rule at home, especially if you have more than one bathroom so that you wouldn't have to wait to use it because your son is in there sing-songing!

If he is randomly sing-songing "mama's a poopy head" as he is playing or something, I wouldn't call that name-calling really, and I think it'll be best if you resist taking it personally but simply say, "That's a song for the bathroom." Having to leave what he's doing until he stops that song will help motivate him to stop. I'd save the "being called names makes me feel sad; there are other ways to deal with big feelings" approach for times when he truly has called you a name to your face because he's angry. You might try Becky Bailey's framework, "You wanted X, so you did Y. You may not do Y. Instead, when you want X, do Z. Try that now." For example, "You are angry about leaving the park, so you called me a poopy head. You may not call people names. Instead, when you're angry about leaving, say, 'I'm mad! I want to stay on this swing all night!' Try that now." Sometimes this can give you more insight into what's really the problem, like if he says, "I'm mad! But I'm done with the swing. But I didn't get to go on the slide even once, so no fair, poopy head!" and then you say (smiling through your clenched teeth), "You may not call me names. You want to go on the slide, so you can say, 'Mama, I didn't get to go on the slide. Can I please go just once before we leave?' Try that now." and then if he gets through that without adding any names to it, then you reinforce it by letting him have that one time down the slide.
 
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Lots of good thoughts in this discussion - it certainly drives me nuts that, as my kids mother, I tend to get the worst of their behaviour. I do think that this is because I am their 'safe' person - someone they can vent at/try things out on without risking damaging the relationship (realistically, there are going to be very few people you can ever do that with in your life!), but I sometimes struggle with where the lines should be in terms of demonstrating self-respect and not being walked all over!

In terms of poopy talk - this is just so normal for young kids. Making a fuss about it only makes it more forbidden/interesting. However, it does get very dull listening to it day in/day out....
In a pre-school setting, we experienced remarkable success by deciding we would have a poopy talk day - we announced to all the children, as they arrived, that it was poo day, and we all had to say things like 'poo' and 'pee' as much as possible - all the adults were in on it and joined in. The kids were thrilled and started shouting 'poo' at the tops of their lungs! We had as much toilet-themed play as we could (think doll's potties, yellow water play...hope you're not too grossed out, but we were on a mission...) and said 'poo' etc at every possible opportunity. By morning tea break, the kids were all totally over it. We had only 1 or 2 references to poo again all morning... all the fun had really gone out of it!
Interesting how lack of adult disapproval works sometimes!
 

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That's great! That's like a paradoxical intervention, where you 'prescribe the problem' to alleviate the problem. Sounds like fun and sounds like it worked.
 

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Just ignore it. It's a phase. Walk away. No charts. No bribes. No attention.
I would have to agree. At his age, he's an expert in finding and pushing buttons. It's about power or attention - my guess is the latter. It's likely that he is trying to get attention because he's not feeling validated in communicating with others - likely authorities. Ignore the poop talk and encourage him to talk about his interests and feelings. I'd try asking him why he keeps talking about butts and poop - ask him how he wants other's to respond to him and why he wants that response. He might just come out and tell you why - 5 year olds can be very straight forward :) Good luck!
 
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