While visiting around the lunch table recently at KMC 2012, our conversation turned to kids. (Of course it did! What else do kids ministers talk about?) Anyway, we somehow began talking about Bible story time with preschoolers and the funny things that can happen. One kids minister, who shall rename nameless to protect the innocent, told us of a hilarious time (at least for those of us listening…probably not so hilarious to her as it happened) when one preschooler said something you don’t normally hear at church!
My new friend continued with her story letting us know that she calmly let the little guy know that his words were not appropriate and something we don’t say. Good job, new friend. The funny part was that once she took care of that situation, one by one the entire group of preschoolers added to the conversation by saying, “I know something else we don’t say…*#@%(+!” (fill in your own word here – they said it!). She of course was a little flabbergasted by all the words flying, but handled it the best way she could! So, in light of this, I thought it might be helpful for a few tips for handling these occasional outbursts.
- Stay calm. Many times, the child is looking for attention. If you overreact, he’s going to enjoy the attention and continue with the behavior and the words.
- I heard one wise preschool mom ask her child if he knew the meaning of the word he just said. Hearing a “no,” the mom let him know that we don’t use words we don’t understand. If you’re dealing with your own child, you might take that opportunity to give an appropriate definition and tell him not to say it again. If you’re a kids leader, you may let the child know he needs to ask his parent for the definition. (You may want to let the parent know that this conversation is coming!)
- If the child is using the word to voice frustration, help him out by suggesting more appropriate words he can use.
- If you can discern that a child is just wanting to be silly, offer some silly words of your own that would be more acceptable. While the silly behavior may continue, at least the language will be better!
- If the words are being used to bully or make fun of a friend (name-calling), remind the child that those words hurt. Help him learn to handle the situation by encouraging discussion between the kids. You may have to mediate and offer words that will help him express his feelings better.
I hope you find these helpful. If you’ve had to intervene in a wordy situation, please share your suggestions!