How does a child perceive what is said?
An adult usually knows that people don’t mean it when they say, “I could just kill him for doing that.”
But children—especially young children—often have not had enough experience to know that what someone says is not always to be taken literally.
Young children also tend to take things at face value and to be concrete and specific in their way of looking at things.
An example is the child who came home from a birthday party in tears because the hostess showed him to his seat and asked him to “sit there for the present.” But, as he told his mother, she never did give him a present!
So, what does a child understand when he hears, “Stop that or I’ll break your arm.” Or “When I get you home, I’ll pull your nose off.”
How can we be sure that that the child won’t believe the threat and be afraid the adult will break his arm?
There is another side of the story. When the threat is not carried out and the child does not have his nose pulled off, he begins to learn that nothing happens because of his problem behavior.
So, take a minute to listen to what you say to your child. It may not be what you mean to say at all.