Posted: May 8th, 2013 by Chick Moorman & Thomas Haller
Someone recently sent us an article they thought would be of interest to us. they were right. In fact, we were more than interested. We were intrigued.
The title grabbed our attention right away: The 13 Creepiest Things A Child Has Ever Said To A Parent. We read the entire article with intense interest.
As we perused the information presented, we quickly noticed a major shortcoming of the article. All the creepy things kids said were there, all right. What was missing, in our minds, was the most important part of the verbal exchange. How should a parent respond? What could a parent say in response to the creepy things the kids said?
Not to worry. We have completed the task ourselves, including specific suggestions on how to respond effectively to the creepy things kids say.
First of all, rid your mind of the notion that what these kids said is creepy. Creepy is a judgment, and tells more about the person making the judgment than it does about the kid who spoke the words. If you choose to hear your child’s words as creepy, you increase the chance that you will overreact and articulate an inappropriate response.
1. I was tucking my two-year-old into bed and he said, “Goodbye, Dad.” I said, “No, we say ‘good night’.” He said, “I know. But this time it is goodbye.” I had to check on him a few times that night to make sure he was still there.
Be careful not to overreact to this. To a two-year-old, goodbye means the same thing as good night. Do not interpret it in an adult context. His comment is not about death. When he says “Goodbye,” respond with “Goodbye for tonight then. See you in the morning. I love you.”
2. My three-year-old daughter stood next to her newborn brother and looked at him for awhile. She then turned and looked at me and said, “Daddy, it’s a monster….we should bury it.”
A helpful verbal response at this moment would be, “Seems like you’re not totally happy that your brother is here. Say some more about that.”
The first part of this statement acknowledges that your daughter has strong feelings about the new child in the family. The second part is designed to keep her talking. Getting her to offer more information here is important because you cannot be completely sure what she meant by “Daddy, it’s a monster…..we should bury it.” Gather information here without putting her on the witness stand or making her wrong for her feelings.
3. I was sound asleep at around 6 AM when I was awakened by my four-year-old daughter’s face, inches from mine. She looked right into my eyes and whispered, “I want to peel all your skin off.”
Refrain from comments like “You don’t really mean that” or “What an awful thing to say!” Reply instead with a touch of humor: “Oh, I guess I’d better get right up then, because I need my skin” or “Oh no! Then I wouldn’t have any skin!”
Perhaps you could choose an inquisitive stance and use this as a teaching moment. “I wonder what I would look like with no skin. Do you know what skin holds in?”
4. I jokingly asked, “What’s the best way to get a girlfriend?” My seven-year-old responded, “I’d tell her to be my girlfriend or she’ll never see her parents again.”
Resist the urge to launch into a lengthy lecture about the inappropriateness of threatening other people. Instead, pose a question: “Do you think threatening girls really works?” or simply state, “I’ve never seen that work too well with girls or boys. I wonder if there is another way to get a girlfriend?”
5. My niece was sitting on the couch with a weird look on her face. Her mom asked her what she was thinking about and she said, “I’m imagining the waves of blood running over me.”
“That’s interesting. Say some more about that” or “I’d like to hear more about that. Are you willing to share?” These responses are likely to encourage more dialogue and increase your insight into what the child is thinking. A big no-no here is to respond with “UGH, that’s disgusting!”
6. My five-year-old asked, “Mommy, when you die I want to put you in a glass jar so I can see you and keep you forever.” My six-year-old responded, “That’s stupid. Where are you going to find a jar that big?”
You have two choices here. The first option is to ignore the second child and respond to the compliment that was given by the younger one. Say: “Thank you, Willy, for the compliment. You wish you could have me around forever. That’s so nice.”
Your second choice is to address the putdown delivered by the older child. “Arturo, that’s a put down. We don’t talk to each other that way in this family because people can get hurt feelings and it creates distance between people. What we do here is say words that can be helpful. In this case it would sound like this: ‘You are going to have to find a really big jar if you want to do that.’”
7. My child said this one day: “Before I was born I had a sister right? Her and my other mom are so old now. They were ok when the car was on fire, but I sure wasn’t.”
This child is possibly remembering a past life experience. He is recalling something from way back. Do not make him wrong or attempt to convince him that the event never happened. Accept his interpretation and acknowledge that you heard it with a paraphrase: “You’re thinking about something that happened a long, long time ago.”
Parents often squelch a child’s recollections (or imagination if you are more comfortable with that term) because it does not fit with their personal belief system. Whether the child’s question flowed from an active imagination or really was a past life experience, your verbal response needs to remain the same. Accept and acknowledge.
8. My daughter is four and has taken to telling nonsensical knock-knock jokes. (e.g. “Why did the Mama cross the road? Because her arms were noodles!” One day she said this: “Why did the butt cross the road? Because it had a plug in it.”
Four is about the age that kids begin to use what is termed “toilet humor.” Just the mention of the word “underpants” can start a giggling fit that goes on for several minutes. Go along with the silliness of the “butt” comment. Say: “That’s kind of funny in a silly way” or “So many jokes you have! What a silly willy.”
9. My toddler went through a phase where he would constantly say “Hi” to things. “Hi, hi, hi, hi, hi.” One day it came out more like saying “Die, die, die, die, die.” So I asked her, “What’s that you are saying? She turned to face me and whispered, Diiiiiieeeeeeeeeee……..”
This is not about death. It is a young child playing with words and experimenting with how things sound. She is rhyming. Turn this into a rhyming game. Say: “Oh, you can rhyme. So can I. Hi, die, fly bye.” Keep the game going. Do it with other words later.
10. My three-year-old son generally has a happy-go-lucky attitude, so this is pretty odd. Sometimes when he is cuddling with his mommy, he’ll say, very seriously, “Mom, I promise I won’t ever chew on your bones. I promise.”
“Good. I’m happy to hear that,” is all that is needed here. He may be referring to being chewed out or seeing an animal chew on bones. It doesn’t matter where it is coming from. Make no big deal about it and the phrase will be replaced soon enough. “I promise I won’t ever chew on your bones” is a phrase you will both be laughing about ten years from now.
11. A friend of mine’s child told him, “Daddy, I love you so much that I want to cut your head off and carry it around so I can see your face whenever I want.”
“That’s one way to keep me with you. Here is another,” is an appropriate response. This child is simply saying he loves you. Enjoy it.
12. My three-year-old daughter, holding her baby brother for the first time, said, “So I shouldn’t throw him in the fire?”
Use this as a time to teach about appropriate touching and holding, “That’s correct. That would hurt your brother. Here is how we hold babies. Here is how we touch. Here is how we tell him we love him with our hands.”
13. Getting my two and a half-year-old daughter out of the bath one night, my wife and I were briefing her on how important it is to keep her privates clean. She casually replied, “Oh, nobody ’scroofs’ me there. They tried one night. They kicked the door in and tried but I fought back. I died and now I am here.” She said it like it was nothing.
This is another possible past life recollection. Do not spend your energy attempting to convince your child it never happened. Focus on the present. Reply: “And now you are here with us, and our job as mommy and daddy is to keep you safe and healthy. And we’re going to do that. And one way we stay healthy is to make sure we get all the body parts clean from our head down to our toes.”
Refuse to label things your child says as “creepy.” The main goal here is to take them seriously and help them feel heard. Otherwise, they may internalize the false notion that they, themselves, are creepy.
Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller