How to respond to "you're stupid" and other frustrating kid phrases


00:00:01    Alyssa

You're listening to Voices of Your Village. This is episode 190 and in this episode, we're talking about how to respond when your kiddo says something hurtful, like you're stupid, or you're the meanest mom, or you don't even love me. What do we do? It can bring up so many triggers for us, and parts of us are going to come to the surface from our own childhood and our own wounds and social programming. Maybe it's things around respect or obedience, or maybe triggers from times where other people have said, hurtful things to you are going to come up. And so how do we navigate that. This episode is going to dive into what's going on with your kid beneath the surface, and how do we reach beyond the behavior to respond with intention? All right, folks, let's dive in. 


00:00:57    Alyssa

Welcome to Voices of Your Village, a place where parents, caregivers, teachers and experts come to support one another on this wild ride of raising tiny humans. We combined decades of experience with the latest research to create the modern parenting village. Let's dive into honest conversation about real parenting challenges, so it doesn't have to be this hard. I'm your host, Alyssa Blask Campbell. 


00:01:27    Alyssa

I've gotten a lot of questions about how to respond to kiddos when they're being mean to us. Let's get real. They can say some gnarly things like you're stupid or you're mean, or sometimes the I hate you one which can really dig deep when you are just doing countless things for them. And your whole world sometimes can revolve around them. And then they're rude to you. And you're like do you know, that I went and got special organic food for you or the number of hours I've spent preparing?  It's a real pain in the butt. So I want to talk about how to respond to it. First and foremost, I think it's really important to remember throughout all of this that they are not responsible for our feelings. We are going to chat about empathy and how to build empathy outside of us. But at the end of the day, I want every human to have one person they can break down to and be totally vulnerable with, and not feel responsible for your feelings. And I think you have the opportunity to be that person for these tiny humans. Brene Brown's research has showed us that everybody needs one of these people. And part of that is that I don't want them to feel responsible for your feelings. If something hard happens to them, or they have a really challenging experience, or they're going through a tough season, I want them to be able to come tell you, not worried about how it makes you feel. Not worried about spiking your anxiety, or making you feel sad, or making you feel angry. I want them to know that you can handle whatever they bring to the table. And the hard part is that we model that during times like these, where they're being rude to us, model in other ways as well. But this is one of those things where I don't want to say things like it makes me sad when you say that to me, or it makes me mad when you say that to me. Instead, I want to validate their feeling because what we're seeing is like the tip of the iceberg. The behavior is always what's on top, and that's what you see. But under it is a feeling. So when the child is yelling that you're stupid and you're mean and I hate you, I want to turn and figure out like, what are they feeling beneath that? Are they feeling embarrassed about something that happened? Are they disappointed that they have to leave their toys to go to dinner? What are they feeling? Because I want to focus on that and say something like it's really disappointing when you're working so hard on something, and then it's time to leave and go home for dinner. I could tell that you were having a lot of fun playing there. And I know that's really disappointing. How can I help you feel calm so we can talk about it? When we're emotion coaching for emotion processing, it is not a time for delivery of justice or law enforcement. I understand that your feelings are hurt because they said something rude to you, and it's your job to regulate those feelings so that you can respond to them, because what they need right now is someone to emotion coach them, so that they can find their calm. And then afterwards, we can say, hey, next time you're feeling really disappointed, what are some things that you can do instead of yelling rude things, or instead of saying, mean things to me, what are some things that you could do when you're feeling disappointed so that we could talk about it? That's what we're doing down the road, like once they're calm, but not until they're calm and they've processed and we've worked through this. It's really hard, not just react in the moment to the hurtful things that they're saying. But if you can work to regulate your emotions there, it'll be far more effective to respond to their emotions and support them through them, and then give them other tools to use in the future than it is to just shame them for making you have a hard feeling now, because it's not really about you, it's not that they think that you're stupid or mean, or that they hate you. We know that that's not actually true. They're having a hard feeling, and they don't know what else to do with it. So they're saying something mean, it would be the same if they came up and started hitting you, or if they were a toddler, and they were biting you or kicking you, It's that they're having a hard feeling, and they don't know what else to do with it. And so what we want to do is emotion coach them through it. You want to validate that feeling beneath the behavior. Sometimes I think of it as a triangle with like three different levels. Sometimes it's a behavior on top, and then the secondary emotion, which can often look like anger or sadness. And then the root emotion, which might be disappointment or embarrassment, or shame. I was making dinner for this kiddo, and I made a quesadilla, and he wanted chicken nuggets. And literally, he sat throughout all of dinner telling me how terrible I was. And all these mean awful things, because he was disappointed because I made something and he wanted something else, and he didn't know what else to do with that feeling. So I emotion coached him the whole time. And eventually we were able to talk about what to do differently next time. But it took probably over an hour ago. It was all through dinner, and then through bath, and after bath was when he started to like, really genuinely like process, he had calmed down before bath time as in was no longer yelling rude things at me, but he hadn't fully processed this yet. He was still coping. And so then I could see that like shift in his body where like his shoulders relaxed, and he relaxed. And then I was able to talk to him and say, man, I know that tonight you really wanted to have chicken nuggets for dinner. And I had already made a quesadilla. I wonder what we could do next time, so that we could solve that problem together. And he was quiet. He didn't say anything, so then I brainstormed. I was like, huh? Well, next time if I make something, if I were to make a quesadilla and you want chicken nuggets, you could say, oh, you know, I tried a quesadilla before, and I didn't like it, is there another choice? Or you could say, I was really hoping for chicken nuggets today I'm feeling disappointed, but giving them something else that could say in that moment is huge. And I know it sounds crazy that they would be able to turn around and say it to you. But guys it works. I've literally seen it work. I've done it, And I've worked with tiny humans, who then they can turn to you And say, I'm really disappointed. This is what I want. And this is what I got, In fact, in episode number 26 with Logan, when we're talking about raising emotionally intelligent humans, her tiny human Spencer. At one point, he had gone to this Halloween party, and he got to grab like a thing from bag, and you didn't know what you were going to get. And he got something and was disappointed about what he got, because he knew there were other things in that bag. He wanted more. And so his body kind of sank, and she could tell that he was feeling upset. And so she said, Spence, what's up buddy? He was like, I'm just I'm really disappointed. I really wanted to get the skeleton, and I got the spider, or whatever it was. And he was able to do that. I like four years old because they'd been doing this emotion coaching for so long. And he had the word to say, I'm disappointed. This is what I wanted to have happen. And then this is what happened. And Logan didn't solve his problem. It's not like he got to go switch it. But then she was able to support him through and say, oh, that is disappointing when you really want one thing, and you get another I've had that happen before, and sometimes she'll tell a story about her own experience there. And sometimes they're made up. But just letting kids know, like yeah, I've been there. It really stings. It's a hard thing to process. We're not always going to solve the problem, We're not always going to make them happy. 


00:09:55    Alyssa

Our job is to teach them how to process these hard emotions now, So that then one day, when you're not there and they feel disappointment, someone else isn't going to swoop in and just make them happy and give them what they want. They need to know how to process that hard feeling. They need to know that they have a toolbox to call on so that they can survive it. And that's what we want to build in these little moments, and it can be exhausting. But let me tell you, if you lay this foundation now, it will change your life and their life. Just take it a day at a time. Like today. Here's my goal today. I am going to take a breath before I respond to this kid. It's never going to be perfect. You're going to leave at the end of every day and be like, there were times I reacted when I wish I would have responded. And that's fine. We only have two emotion coach correctly, 20% of the time to see lasting effect. My goal is 50 percent of the time, because I know that they will interact with other humans who won't emotion coach them in the way that I would hope. And so I aim for 50%. But if 50% of the time you can nail this? Guy's, we're doing all right, and you will see change. The more consistently. We do this. The quicker this happens and the more they learn what to expect. My goal for these kiddos is that they start to learn, Oh, I'm having a hard feeling I've had this feeling before, and I know what I can do to help my body feel calm. So that we can solve the problem when they get upset, and they're yelling. Like you're mean You're stupid. If we get back and forth into a yelling match with them, of like that hurts my feelings when you say something rude, we're going to end up back and forth with them. And it's going nowhere fast, because what they really are saying to you is, I'm having a hard feeling, and I don't know what else to say or do, Will you please help me? We've got to learn to translate their behavior into the emotional language that they're really feeling, because when you can do that, when you can pause and say, what are they really saying to me in this moment, It doesn't feel personal anymore because it's not personal. They love the crap out of you. At the end of the day, you're the one that they want there. And right now, they're having a hard feeling, and they don't know what else to do with it. And if they did, they would. And so instead of punishing them for not having that toolbox, let's build it. You might be sitting there and saying, like, Okay, but I'm not going to let them be rude to me. Here's the thing guys, They're going to keep being rude to you until they have another tool box to pull from. And you can also set this expectation for them afterwards, again, after all of the emotion coaching when they're having this feeling they're in the amygdala brain, which is your feelings brain. And we want to help get them to the prefrontal cortex, because that's when we can have, you know, rational conversations as rational as a toddler or preschooler, whomever can chat with us. I mean, their prefrontal cortex obviously isn't fully developed yet, but they can still have a real conversation with you where you can say, you know, I could tell that you're really upset when this happens. Here are some things that I do, And I feel disappointed when you yelled and said, those mean things. It took us longer to solve the problem. But next time, when you're feeling really upset, if you can tell me, I'm really disappointed, I didn't want to leave the playground, or I'm really frustrated that I have to do this thing right now, and I don't want to do it. Then I can help you. I can help you feel calm, and then we can solve that problem together. I want to help you solve the problem is the message I want to continuously send these kiddos, and we have got to translate their behavior into the emotional language that lives beneath it. And on top of that, we can build empathy once they have another tool box to pull from, they will pull from it because they see that it works. They'll say, oh, I remember last time, when this happened and I was able to process it, and it won't happen overnight. It's something we'll have to do is kind of like reading to kids. You don't read to an infant, expecting them to read back to you tomorrow. You read to an infant expecting them to read back to you in like six years. It's the same with emotional language. If we're not providing them with this toolbox, they're not going to magically have it one day. If we are, if we are using this language and we are responding to them, They will have it sooner, and they will be able to pull from it, and it will change their life in yours. If you haven't listened to episode number 27 yet with the twins go have a listen to it. After this one, I interviewed them so that you could hear what it can be like. It is amazing to watch these kiddos go through the day because they feel all the feelings. They get angry at each other. They get frustrated, They get disappointed. They feel embarrassed all of the things. They're not hitting, kicking, screaming, yelling any of those things. They have, toddler Emerson, I remember biting me in the lip at one point, Spencer threw a sunscreen bottle across the room at the beach. Like I have so many memories of them quote-unquote misbehaving because they were building this toolbox, but now they have it, And now they can say, I feel really disappointed right now. That wasn't my expectation. Could I have a hug? Or, I need some space, I'm not ready to talk yet. Can you imagine going through life with that toolbox? It's beautiful. It's so amazing, what you can accomplish And how just phenomenal life can feel when you know that whatever comes up today, you have the tools to handle. I want to give every kid this gift. And so when they're saying these rude things to you, it's because they don't know what else to do with that feeling right now. And this is an opportunity to build that toolbox. You're going to validate that emotion and offer coping strategies. How can I help you feel calm? I would love to solve this problem with you. It's not about our feelings in this moment. Later on, we can talk to them about it. We can say, we might even bring it up in another way later on, of like reading a book and saying, brainstorming like how people might talk to people or pre-teaching in the car, Like when we go to the playground, if somebody takes your truck and you scream at them, or you tell them something mean, I wonder how that would make them feel? So we're building this empathy peer-to-peer, or we're encouraging kids to put themselves in somebody else's shoes. They can do this pretty young. I was in a classroom of three and four-year-olds recently, and these kiddos were building in the block area. They built this amazing rocket ship, and I went over and I was playing with them, and they were really excited. They just completed it. They were going to take off and blast off, go to space. And this other kid walked up and was like can I come in your rocket ship? And they were just like, no, there's no space for you. And so that child walked away and I was there. And I just said, hmm, I wonder how it would feel if you really wanted to play with people, and they didn't include you. If they said there wasn't space for you to play, I wonder how that would feel. I didn't tell them what they had to do. I didn't tell them that they had to go and include this kid. I didn't tell them what they did was mean, I just encourage them to think about that just by saying it out loud. I wonder how that would feel. And they're like, hmm. And they started building more onto the rocket ship. And seconds later, They were like, oh, there's another space. There's room for him, and they ran over, and they got him and said, there's room, we built another spot in a rocket ship, and that kid came over and got to be included. So we can teach them the empathy piece. And we can teach them to be respectful and to not say, rude things to somebody, but I don't want to do that when it comes to us to be honest, I think as you teach them to kind humans to other people, they will be kind humans to you. But I don't want them worried about how something makes you feel. I don't want any child worried about spiking your anxiety or your sadness or your anger, because we don't get to control their experiences in life. And I want them to have a safe space to break down. And you get to be that safe space If they are coming to you, and they're wondering if you're happy and they're worried about your happiness, Then they are very aware of their effect on your feelings. And then when something hard happens in their life, they might not turn to you because they want to protect you. So when they say these mean things as a toddler, I want to support the emotion beneath the behavior. I want to give them another tool box. I'm not fixing their problem. I'm not brainstorming with them and problem-solving about how it will be better so that they stop yelling rude things. I'm simply acknowledging and validating the emotion they're feeling beneath it and asking them how I can help them feel calm so that we can talk about it. If you're solving the problem while they're screaming at you and doings awful things, then they're still also getting what they're trying to get out of, like they want this problem solved. And if they scream and tell you that you’re mean, or you're rude or whatever, and then you go and say, like, I'm going to come help you in just a minute. No, we're not solving the problem yet, when they're yelling, these things Were you are just coming right back to that emotion. You're so disappointed. I know how that feels when X happens. And now we have Y it's really disappointing. How can I help your body feel calm so we can talk about it? Would you like a hug, or would you like space? Would you like to read a book, or would you like to color? Would you like to put on music and dance for a minute to help your body feel calm? 


00:20:01    Alyssa

And then once they're calm, then we're solving the problem. I could tell that you were really disappointed that that happened. How can I help you? What should we do to solve this problem? Sometimes we won't have the answer, and we can bring them into it. The most important thing here is that we are bringing it back, and we are not solving that problem. And we are not responding to the behavior. We are responding to the emotion. It's hard, It's really hard, And they are the only people in the world that you have to do this with, other people you can say, I'm not going to let you talk to me that way. It hurts my feelings when you say that, but with this relationship with these tiny humans, if you want to be that one person for them, they can break down to they can't feel responsible for your feelings. So the next step is to figure out, how are you going to take care of yourself so that you can regulate your own emotions? How are you taking care of yourself throughout the day? Are you drinking enough water? Are you eating food? Are you peeing alone? Are you taking two minutes every couple hours to just close your eyes and breathe without a human on your body. What are you doing to take care of yourself so that you don't find yourself at like an eight out of ten by five o'clock, or by noon? How can you regulate your emotions throughout the day so that you can respond instead of react? Because you can have all of the best intentions. And if you don't take care of yourself, you'll react. And sometimes you're going to react and that's fine. But if you find that you continuously react and you're having a really hard time responding, you've got to take care of yourself. You've got to figure out, what can you do throughout the day that helps regulate your emotions so that you can show up and be the person you want to be? We're not looking for perfection here, but we're looking for intention. 


00:21:53    Alyssa

All right, come on over to Instagram We're going to be talking about this topic. I'll have a post in each of those places where we can dive in and chat about it. Alright guys, thanks for being you. Catch you on the flip side.


00:22:13    Alyssa

Thanks for tuning in to Voices of Your Village. Check out the transcript at Did you know that we have a special community over on Instagram hanging out every day with more free content? Come join us at Take a screenshot of you tuning in, share it on the gram and tag to let me know your key takeaway. If you're digging this podcast, make sure to subscribe so you don't miss an episode. We love collaborating with you to raise emotionally intelligent humans.






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