Last night, Cole asked if I was going to use his Spiderman toothbrush on his teeth (which was totally a set-up because what OTHER toothbrush would I be using?). When I said “Yes,” he looked up at me with his delicious, brown eyes and stage-whispered “Oh, you are SO dead.”
Then, this morning, as I was trying to get him dressed, he yelled “You’re FIRED!” and threw back his head and cackled.
He’s also been actually listening to music and has been accurately repeating words from certain rap songs (we have a lot of rap fusion-type stuff on our mp3 player, mostly because it’s fun to dance to), though so far he has not repeated anything really objectionable.
He is very aware, and picking up more than we realize. I’ve had to warn John recently that we have to be extra careful how we talk to each other, because we tend to use a lot of sarcasm and generally be faux-assholes around each other for our own amusement, but Cole, though he picks up the words and phrases, DOES NOT understand that we are joking.
I know that Cole doesn’t know what “You’re so dead” or “You’re fired” mean. He’s simply repeating something he’s heard to people with whom he feels safe (me and his Daddy) to test them out in a social situation to help him work through what they mean. When I tell him that “You’re so dead” is not a nice thing to say, he understands a little more about what it means and when it should not be used. I’m glad that he’s experimenting with us rather than with the kids at school (or his teacher… GAH!).
I hope that I’m doing the right thing. I talk to him about the not-as-nice things that he says and, without getting angry that he’s said them, tell him that they aren’t nice things to say and that he shouldn’t say them. I don’t ignore them, because then he doesn’t learn, and I don’t get angry, because then he only learns that that particular word or phrase has some power over me.
But this part of parenting is harder than it looks from the outside. There are so many things that we do or say as adults that we don’t think about and that kids don’t understand because they don’t have the same context and experience.
What would you do, as a parent, in these situations? Ignore? Punish? Talk through it? Laugh (it’s hard not to)? Why?