May 15, 2023

Ask Amy: My Kid Is Learning Sassy Talk at Preschool

Is it a big deal if your child brings salty talk home from preschool? Not necessarily. Is it a teachable moment? Absolutely. This age is the time kids first become aware of others' feelings.

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How do we discipline our kids when they start sassing us with phrases they picked up elsewhere? We can view it as a teachable moment and foundation for cognitive development down the road.

A listener in our Facebook group says:

"My daughter is 3, almost 4. She’s been at daycare for about a year now and I’ve noticed she’s started picking up phrases from school that bother me. The thing is, some of them are probably also good things for her to be able to say, like “Don’t touch me” and “I don’t like you right now” and “Go away."

The last one in particular really bugs me because while trying to gentle parent and be present, she only says these things when she’s mad at me for saying no to something. It somehow feels wrong because we don’t say that kind of stuff with each other in the home.

There’s a part of me that’s glad she has the bodily autonomy to say no and I want to encourage that for her life in general. But when it’s just her and me alone I’m not sure what to do. Is this normal or should I be worried about what she’s picking up at school?"

Is it necessarily a BIG deal that your child is sassing you at home? Not necessarily. Is it a teachable moment? Absolutely. Parenting gently doesn't necessarily mean never correcting a child when they're doing something unkind or hurtful.

Your child is allowed to express when she'd prefer to play alone, for sure. "I don't like you right now" is certainly not an abnormal way for a preschooler to express that sentiment, but there are probably ways for her to express that preference without hurting the other person's feelings, whether it's a parent or a classmate.

You can offer her more polite phrases like "I would really like to be alone right now, please" or "I need a break," so she can express those same feelings she's having but in a more respectful way.

3 going on 4 is when children start to learn theory of mind, meaning they can conceive of the thoughts, feelings, and desires of others as different from their own. So within the next year or so, with your help, she's going to be able to sort out how to let a friend down easy and how to stop a bully in her tracks. It's a process, and it's proper for you as her parent to be an active part of that learning.


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