Help, 3 Year Old Won't Stop Saying....

Updated on April 29, 2008
L.B. asks from Rigby, ID
24 answers

My 3 year old has picked up the word 'stupid'. I don't know about others, but this word is just as bad as the 'others' to me! I cannot get him to stop saying it. It's in all Disney movies, which I had never heard before but he is now very eager to point them out to me. We have tried having him use a different word, time-outs, asking nicely, taking toys away, explaining why we don't say it...you name it, we've tried it...any other creative ideas? Thanks!

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So What Happened?

I wanted to thank everyone for all of the advice. The most common thing I have read is to 'ignore'. I have done this but as I read through all of your words, I find I really need to be consistent. My son is an extremely strong willed little man and it seems with him things sometimes take a little longer than I would hope. So thank you for all of the 'reminders' to follow through with my first instinct. Sometimes I need to bring myself back to reality and know this is a phase and it will pass. Thanks for keeping me grounded!

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D.K.

answers from Denver on

Have you tried ignoring it, or not making a big deal of it. He might be saying it because the emotional reaction you have gets attention. If it isn't a big deal, he has no power in saying it.

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S.C.

answers from Denver on

He loves the attention and reaction that he is getting out of you. I know that it is probably driving you crazy, but you need to just not react when he says it and soon enough he'll stop. That is just the way that kids operate!

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L.C.

answers from Denver on

Isn't it interresting how kids pick up on all the words we don't want them to? My two oldest girls (3 and 4) also think that words funny. I haven't had the experience of them saying it all the time so I don't even know if this idea works or not, but what would happen if you ignored him saying it for a day or so. Maybe he would quit since you are not reacting to it. I really have no idea on this one. You will have to let us all know what works so we can use the same method. Anyway...just an idea. Good luck!

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J.G.

answers from Missoula on

I completely agree with the other parents about not making a big deal out of it when he uses inappropriate wordage, this has worked with my 2 boys. (I really like the advice from Kristin C.)It seems my first child (now 7) only remembers the foul stuff out of what I thought were clean cartoons (disney etc). As far as my almost 3 year old goes, the whole look of disappointment and me giving a short "we need to use our nice words" then going about my business, then when he uses manners with his big brother or anyone else I really lay on the praise is really working. I heavily censor Tv and movies now, you really cannot rely on ratings anymore. But yeah take the focus off of the bad and put more effort towards the good. They do find loopholes on how to get your attention whether it be good or bad. I did like one idea I saw on Nanny 911 a few weeks ago, when a particular child started using "potty" words she would send him to the bathroom to get all the potty words out. I thought it was hilarious because I used to tell my oldest boy that potty words belonged in the toilet and if he wanted to use those words he can go spit them in the toilet and flush them away. and yes it worked because nobody likes spending much time with the toilet, especially in a house with ALL BOYS!

I wish you the best of luck and hang in there!!

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R.R.

answers from Denver on

One thing is that all the attention that has been given to the word and him saying it is showing him that that word has power. One idea is to tell him that if he wants to say that word he can go in the bathroom and say it all he wants with the door closed. The thrill of saying it may lessen if there is no audience and minimal reaction to the word being said other than having him go to the bathroom to say it or if he doesn't go by himself, then calmly (easier said than done, I know) taking him there.
My 4 year old heard someone say the f word last year and we went through a bout of this. The preschool teacher recommended we take away the power behind the word by lessening our response to it and having him go to the bathroom to say potty talk.
Hope some of that might help.
R.

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C.J.

answers from Provo on

Dear L. B. He probably knows that he can get your attention by saying this word and if he don't get it then he will not say it as often. My advice is try not to give it by ignoring him and talking about something different.
C. J.

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M.N.

answers from Pocatello on

So, Unfortunately, I really don't know what to say to help with this. I am interested in the responses. I worry my daughter will pick up words from the disney movies that I don't want her to say. She is also 3. Disney uses alot of words I hope my daughter doesn't pick up on. My hope is, that since it is usually the "naughty" guys that say it, she won't repeat it. Perhaps point out to your son it is the mean people saying this and that nice little boys shouldn't. Again, I really don't know what to say to you. Good luck. My daughter loves the movie "Cars" I am waiting for her to repeat "hillbilly h..." Ugg! Let me know if you find something that works.
M.

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A.G.

answers from Salt Lake City on

I haven't really read through all the advice given. But the only thing that I have done that worked for my little girl is to put a little tiny bit of soap in her mouth. Not like a ton just enough to get the nasty taste in her mouth. And you know now she turns it on all of us. I say some of our "kaka" words by accident, and I do it myself. But she is the enforcer in our family. And it really cut her "kaka" words down. And when she watches movies we talk about how there moms are going to put put soap in there mouth for the kaka word. Hope this helps!

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D.K.

answers from Denver on

Stupid, Shut Up, Idiot, Dumb, or even Hate aren't allowed in our house. First, let him know he isn't to say it, at 3 he is old enough to understand he isn't allowed. When he says it, put him in time out. Explain in YOUR house it isn't allowed, even if he hears it elsewhere. As their world broadens then words he hears will expand and as long as you enforce it at home he isn't allowed those words he is old enough to get that. My three year old now even knows all the differences of what is allowed to say and not. Just enforce it followed with discipline if he ignores your requests not to say it.

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K.C.

answers from Denver on

Hi! I totally sympathize with you - my 3 kids have all gone through the "bad word" stages. The bigger deal you make of it, the more powerful the word will seem to your son and he will keep using it. Right now, he knows that it gets a reaction out of you and for many kids, it doesn't matter that he's getting negative attention, it's all just attention to him. I found that just looking at my kids with an "I'm disappointed" look and leaving the room when those words come out took a while, but they got the message. The word lost power, they got bored with it, realized I wasn't going to react and they stopped using it. I did this when they first used "stupid", then it was "idiot", then they started school and it became the really bad words (you know what they are!). It's still a challenge and they do sometimes still let one slip, but I just look at them like I'm disappointed and leave the room. Or you can tell your son "I'm sorry, you can't watch (insert DVD or movie here) ever again because you're learning bad words from it. Maybe you can try going a few days without using the word "stupid" and we can try watching it then." 3yrs is old enough to understand consequences - as long as you follow through on your threat, he'll learn his lesson. Good Luck!

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M.M.

answers from Great Falls on

I would suggest you try it the other way around then:
QUIT TOTALLY PAYING ATTENTION to the word.
it seems he figured out that this word-saying draws your attention: and he definitely likes attention, be it positive or negative, it's just a human nature. Now, if you do not pay any attention whatsoever, there may happen a counter-reaction on his side also: he'll see it does not work and will quit doing it altogether, as it won't make any sense any more.
...by you not paying attention to it I mean TOTALLY, even if he finds the word in the cartoon and points it out to you, you just go blank and shift the topic to something totally different, as if you never heard him saying anything about the word...
all peiole are different, and different approaches work for different kids, but this is one of the options.
good luck, L.!

L.S.

answers from Fort Collins on

We try to make sure our 2 yo doesn't hear words we don't want him to hear...but sometimes he does - from daycare, other kids, adults, even kids movies like you mentioned. We are actually very selective in the movies and TV we let him watch for that reason (as well as violence and scary scenes). Isn't it funny how much more you notice in movies and things when your little one is watching?!

Our son was saying "oh my god" after he heard an adult say it. We didn't think that sounded good - (even though we sometimes say it - we are being more careful now). At first we tried all the things you mentioned (alternative words, telling him nicely, saying we don't say that, etc)...the attention only made him say it more. Finally we decided to say, "I can't hear you when you say that." and walking away and ignoring him. He only said it once or twice after that.

Hope that helps!

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M.P.

answers from Denver on

My 4 year old loves that word too among others that have already been mentioned. Rather than using the term 'bad' word, I've been trying to explain the difference between positive words and negative words. I repeat to him every time that we don't use negative words in our house, because it makes others feel bad and also I repeat the definition to him. Then I ask him how he'd feel if someone called him Stupid (or whatever word used).

He's started coming to me when others have used that word telling me that it's negative and will occasionally tell them as well. Since he's started doing this, I now will punish him if he uses it (only after repeating the definition...).

He definitely pushes my limits, but is actually using it less and less. Good Luck!

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E.B.

answers from Denver on

Hi, L.,
The solution that comes to me is to forget about it. He will get over it. You are likely encouraging him to keep doing this because of all the attention he is getting. Kids like attention of any kind, even negative. Maybe just ignoring it will work after some time. Try not to have a gut reaction when he says it because he will notice that too, and it will be encouraging -- he will see he has power over mom. Hope this helps. E., [email protected]____.com

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J.H.

answers from Billings on

I would ignore it--he knows it bothers you, and he is using it to get a reaction. All the punishments you have given him are providing him with negative attention, so if you ignore him when he says "stupid" and praise him for his good behavior, I bet he will stop.

As far as the Disney movies go, I hadn't noticed the language, but I have noticed that in almost every one, somebody dies. Now my daughter has been talking about people and animals dying like it's no big deal. I hope our kids aren't getting desensitized by Disney!

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K.W.

answers from Casper on

With my daughter we ran into the same problem and so we started charging her a quarter out of her penny bank. She also has the right to charge us a quarter if we say it. Put it into a jar and that is great insentive for her to see it and know she rarely says it. The money in the jar is used for family vacations. Other words we charge for are shut-up, hate, and any foul language. Hope that helps it seemed to work well with my niece as well.

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A.M.

answers from Fort Collins on

Hi L.,

I am the mother of four boys, ages 9, 7, 2, and 1. My two year old also does this. When he hears a new word (and it's always a not so good word), he'll laugh and say it over and over again. He does it somewhat for attention and partially because he knows he's not supposed to say it. If I make a big deal out of it and punish him for it, or tell him not to say it, it makes matter worse. One day, we were in the courthouse and he was playing with his Thomas the Trains. He stood up and walked away from them and when I told him to sit down, he refused at first, so an older woman told him, "I'm going to take your trains." He got mad and looked at her and said, "Stupid lady! NO take mine trains!" He picked up on the word stupid, jerk (he called his daddy a stupid jerk one day when he was frustrated with him), shut up, and a few others. I'm just thankful that we do not curse, or he would be using those words, as well! The good news is that this is just a phase and the fun eventually wears off for them and they quit saying these words. It is like a game to my son and if I make a big deal out of it, or punish him for it, it makes matters worse. I have learned that if I completely ignore him when he says it, he'll eventually stop. Another thing that I have tried, when he tries to get my attention saying a word like "stupid" (because he knows he's not supposed to and he's just testing me), is I will look at him and yell out, "Holy cow!" and when he says, "holy cow", I say, "Oh no, Damen! Don't say that bad word!" Then he thinks it's funny and that it is a bad word and he'll keep repeating the phrase "Holy cow!" or whatever new phrase I have put into his head. You might try that with your son. Good luck and be patient! :)

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A.S.

answers from Pocatello on

My son is doing the same thing but with the word "sucks" I hate that word and hearing it out of a 3 year olds mouth sounds terrible so I have just told him we don't say that word and given him a different word to say trying not to make to big of a deal out of it...so now he is correcting me and everyone else. Anyone who comes over is corrected on a regular basis even if they don't say the bad word anything that sounds close or that he thinks is bad he fixes. I have even been put in time out by my 3 year old for something that I said I promise it wasn't a bad word but he thought it was so I went which he loved and so he watches what he says and I watch what I say now so neither one has to be corrected it has gotten kinda funny now. Good luck this to shall pass!

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A.P.

answers from Denver on

It sounds like you're doing all of the right things. So, I wonder if he's doing it because he gets a rise out of you. What would happen if you didn't react to the word? But reacted in a positive way when he used alternative words? My 5 year old often picks up words from tv or kids in school. I talk to him about nice boys don't say that word. Or we talk about how it would make him feel if someone said that word to him. Good luck.

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B.H.

answers from Salt Lake City on

Well I feel the same way as you. When my daughter was about the same age as your son, she picked up that word. We simply told her that we don't say stupid we say silly. Anytime she would say the word, we would correct her by saying, "we don't say stupid, we say silly". After a while she caught on well. Matter of fact, at the time she LOVED the song, "Since you've been gone". In the song, the lyrics say "stupid love song". We even changed the song to say, "silly love song". She would sometimes catch us saying, "well that's stupid" and we would have to apologize and correct ourselves with the word silly.

About me: SAHM of 2 girls, 5 and 3

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K.V.

answers from Denver on

I know this may sound weird but.....

When my daughter was 3 we started simple chores and she got an allowance. Then we made a swear jar - because like you I have an issue with "stupid", "ugly" and "hate". Any time someone said those words we had to put a dime in the swear jar. Which does not sound bad - but at the end of the week we would go to the dollar store and spend the money we made from chores. It was big deal that she couldn't get everything she wanted and to spend only her money - it cleaned up her language real quick when it finally clicked! Hope this helps a little.

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D.G.

answers from Colorado Springs on

when my son yells or uses words i don't like i put him in a talking timeout. it's just like regular timeout, but more specific to the fact that he may not speak to anyone for several minutes. i tell my son that if he can't use his voice nicely he can't use it at all. it works pretty well for him.

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C.G.

answers from Provo on

My son and I were watching Arthur one day (funny where we learn things)and DW says some bad words. Her mother tells her that the reason we do not say certain words is because it offends other people. We ave told our two year old the same thing. He knows that if he wants to use certain words he cannot use them around certain people. Maybe you can try this with your son. Tell him that you find that word offensive. We have always tried to give our son good reasons for guidance and most of the time it works.

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L.B.

answers from Washington DC on

I know disney is supposed to be good clean family entertainment, but if he does not agree with not using the word, take the source away that is teaching him it. Make it so he only watches preschool age shows- (most) disney is not actually preschool age. Dora, Diego, little bear, blues clues, little bill are preschool age and educational. PBS is preschool focused generally or at least clear of the langauge. When we had direct tv they had a station called NOGGIN that was strictly preschool age. My 4 and 2 year old were only allowed to watch this station if I was not watching with them. I don't always love the preschool age shows, they are not always that entertaining to adults, but teach children good thing and kids usually like them.

Many times as parents we allow are children to watch or do things that are not as age appropriate as we sometimes think they are. Such as the disney movies. Don't get me wrong I love disney, but I have learned that my boys need supervision when watching certain disney movies-or they don't get to watch them.

When my four year old spends time at his cousins house and watches movies with them they are not as choosy as I am and when my son comes home wants to watch sponge bob or some other show that we don't watch in our home. They really aren't age appropriate. If you don't have stations that offer preschool age shows, the public library's usually have preschool age videos to check out.

Good Luck and I hope that this advice is helpful.

PS.- I have been there with the word stupid- I as an adult us to call my moms cat "stupid little kitty" because of some of the things it would do. This is the only time I would use that word, it seemed to describe the kitty well in its actions. We were at my moms one day and My son who was about 3 at the time asked me if he could have something and I said "no". In return he said "stupid little mommy" I was shocked and couldn't figure out were he had learned this... then I saw the kitty do something and went to say my little phrase and caught myself mid-sentence. We don't spend tons of time at my moms, but it really only takes once for children to learn somethings. Since then I am much more careful and we call the kitty other nice things now... I just corrected my child when he said it the first time and we went from there. I now ask my children if they would like to be called the word they are using... they say no generally and are more careful about their language also.

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