Parenting Coach

Practical ideas for social, emotional and behavioral challenges

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Stop the name-calling.

What you can do

When your child says something aggressive or hurtful to a friend or sibling, call him on it. Stop the exchange, but try to do this in a way that won’t embarrass your child in front of other kids. Take him aside or into another room.

When you’re alone, replay the scene with your child. Point out which words were too aggressive. Talk about what he was trying to say, and work together to come up with a list of acceptable words that could have expressed the same thing but in a less hurtful way.

What you can say

“Jacob, I called you into the kitchen so I wouldn’t embarrass you in front of Henry. Jacob, you cannot call him or anyone else a loser or an idiot and expect that to solve the problem.”

“I understand you were upset because Henry said your sister was annoying and needed to get lost. I like that you stood up for her. But I think you could have handled the situation without using such harsh and hurtful words.”

“How else could you have gotten your message across to Henry without calling him those names? Maybe you could have said, ‘Back off, Henry. Don’t talk to my sister like that. She can be annoying but she’s also just a little kid. Ignore her and she’ll go away.’ If you’d spoken this way, you could have prevented a lot of bad feelings.”

Why this will help

Kids with learning and attention issues often have difficulty thinking of the words they want to say in an emotionally charged situation. They may lash out and resort to name-calling because they’re having trouble quickly identifying and labeling their feelings.

A good first step is for you to point out the effects that name-calling has on others. Increasing your child’s awareness and showing him another way to get the same point across will help him stop using abusive language.

Practicing these alternatives with you when things are calm and quiet at home will also help him get better at remembering to use these strategies in the heat of the moment.

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