“Momma, I said, ‘stupid’ to Seth today,” my 2.75 year old son shared with me immediately as I began backing our SUV out of the driveway at the babysitter’s house. (I have to admit, I have handled this situation as a teacher thousands of times, but was NOT ready to hear this from my tender-hearted little man.) He continued before I had time to gather the many thoughts racing through my mind, “Momma, what does stupid mean?” (Ahh, I took a deep breath, at least he didn’t mean to hurt his little friend’s feelings. I felt a little better.)
As we continued to talk, I shared with him a simple meaning for stupid, and that words like that are unkind words that hurt people and make them feel sad. “Oh,” he somberly responded. I asked him if he wanted to (purposefully) hurt his friend’s feelings and make him feel sad. “No.” he muttered. I continued sharing with him that sometimes there are new words that we hear, but shouldn’t say unless we ask to make sure they are kind words that won’t hurt others.
It would be easy to make such excuses for him and not require him to take responsibility for his actions. However, as his parent, it is MY responsibility to NOT make excuses for him but to go to the heart of the matter (which does require much more patience and time), and make sure his behavior is not a heart issue. In this case he was not being malicious but rather innocently used a new word that he had unfortunately overheard another child say. The intentions of his heart are important, but it is also important to begin to train my son, even now, to treat others with respect. Now he knows that speaking “unkind” words has negative consequences: hurting others and a punishment for disobeying his parents (as we have made it clear that he is not to use words to hurt others).The following morning, our little man shared with me that he “didn’t like ‘mean words’ anymore”, he only liked “kind words.” I was so happy to hear that this matter was still fresh on his heart and mind. He and I decided that we could end the issue with an apology to his ‘teacher’ and friend. My husband and I are SO hoping that he will continue to “tell” on himself through his high school years; as this will make our job much easier! Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6.