Articles and Topics
Name Calling: Advice from Moms

Erika in Arizona City
My nephew did that, so we sat down and explained to him that mean words hurt people's feelings. We asked him how he would feel if those things where said to him. He immediately said that he would not like it. Soon he had stopped the name-calling.

Trisha in Banning
He may be hearing it from older siblings or family members, so you should watch what people say around him. You are doing the right thing, but you need to nip it in the bud.

Mike in Pennsylvania
When a child learns a word or a phrase that is considered bad, he'll repeat it in front of adults just to get a reaction and to get attention. When you punish him, he's satisfied because he knows it worked. The next time he talks like that, don't ignore him or focus on the behavior. Instead, divert him into more constructive behavior. Focus on the positive.

Karen in Walhalla, SC
Each time he displays great acts of kindness, give him a sticker. Use a piece of construction paper to gather all the stickers he earns for being nice.

Kenneth N. Condrell, Ph.D.
At 4 years of age, children do call people names at times. Parents often respond by letting their child know that this hurts people's feelings. I like to tell kids that calling a bad name is like hitting some one—it hurts!

If your son is constantly saying mean things, and if your punishment isn't working, your situation sounds excessive. A 4-year-old child should feel guilty about disobeying his parents and hurting other people's feelings.

To find a solution to your problem, examine what's happening in your home to promote such anger and disrespect. Start by asking your relatives what they think the problem is. This takes courage on your part because you may end up hearing things you don't want to hear. Still, relatives are a good source of information when you're trying to solve a problem with a child.

If you can't find the cause and change things, you should consult a child psychologist, who can help you and your husband figure out why your son is behaving so poorly. If you choose this course, make sure both you and your husband attend the appointment together. In a two-parent home, you cannot change this kind of behavior unless both parents are working together.

You're very wise to write in with this concern. You probably recognize that things will get worse unless you and your husband take action. If you need a recommendation of a child psychologist in your area, ask your son's pediatrician. Good luck!

Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education