What’s in a Word? Everything. Words are Powerful and Mighty. They Can Invite or Incite Us.

Have you ever heard a child drop the F-bomb, S-bomb or any other kind of bomb? We have. A
child’s brain and its synapses are exploding meaning their vocabulary and language learning is
also exploding. They are in tune and attuned to every little thing we as grownups say and don’t
say. Children are astute listeners when it comes to language. This is why multilingual language
learning best happens in early childhood. We will talk more in depth about the benefits of dual
language and multi language learning for another blog. Be on the lookout for tips, benefits and
how learning more than one language is good for the brain in the following months.
However, this blog is focusing on language and how it invites or incites us. For example, in our
ears; the phrase let’s play sounds different than go play…doesn’t it? What about when someone
curses on accident then the child reuses that word? Should we as grownups suspense, expel or
make a child feel worse?

While out on a fieldtrip, there was a child many years ago who was playing at the National
Building Museum and was trying, persisting to fit a square peg in a round hole. It just would not
fit or budge. He said, “F#%$, it won’t fit!” All eyes were on me in that moment as a responsible
grown up caring for children. I crouched and got real low to his level and softly said in almost a
whisper, “Wow, it seems you learned a new word and you used it correctly. That word bothers
some people, in fact most, what word can you use instead to show how you feel. What word can
show the frustration you feel?”

He thought for a moment and said, “Oh, shucks!” We both laughed about the word shucks.
When we don’t put attention on the negative and instead on the positive and what we can do
instead, a lot more happy accidents and happy mistakes also known as learning lessons also
known as teachable moments materialize for us, children and the families. We need to give a
little space, a little wiggle room for error and give children and ourselves the space for growth
and learning lessons. Later, I talked to his mom who said, “I dropped that f-bomb last night in a
bit a frustration and exasperation with work, I am so so sorry.”

Language, words incite us or invite us. What route will you choose? What approach will you
use? Children are learning languages and we are their role models. When we think they are not
watching or hearing, they are seeing and listening deeply. The moments, the little moments, the
routines…children are all in and present for. They notice everything. They are present in the
moments, the good, the bad and the ugly. As a result, we are all made better for it.

3 tips to use in the moment when children are using curse words or potty language.

  1. Ignore it. They find that new words and sounds are both funny and hilarious. Potty words
    too. The Book with No Pictures by BJ Novak and Max’s Words by Kate Banks are such
    fun ways to have fun with sounds and words especially if your preschooler shows
    interest in words through emergent literacy. These books give a moment for you all to
    laugh together and sound out words. Win/Win for everyone. It focuses on the positive.
  2. Give another word for them to use in place of the inappropriate word(s) as shown in the
    example above.
  3. Give situations / scenarios when they can use the word (not the curse ones but potty
    lingo such as poop and pee.) For example, “It sounds like you have to use the
    bathroom/potty? Please save those words when you have to go. You may use them then
    or in the bathroom/restroom.

These tips take the power away from these very powerful and mighty words.

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