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Why didn’t anyone tell me that my preschooler would discover the power of words and use them in a hurtful way?

As children grow and develop during the preschool years, their ability to manage emotions and express feelings varies greatly. Three year olds differ in their ability to control their emotions; some three year olds really struggle with strong emotions while others are calm. Four year olds tend to show extreme emotions; when they are happy, they are very happy and when they are mad, they are really mad.

Between three and five, children often begin using hurtful words when they are upset, disappointed, or dealing with conflict. Statements such as “you're not my friend anymore, you can’t come to my birthday party or I hate you” are often heard on the playground and at home.

Preschoolers have learned that words can be very powerful. They experience strong emotions and don't always know how to express how they feel. They test out the power of words when they are angry.

What you can do to help.

Click here for a helpful PDF
  • Teach him to use words to express his feelings more appropriately "I am mad that you won't let me have that toy." This way, you are helping him put names to his feelings. Rephrasing a hurtful statement helps your child learn there are many ways to express their feelings.
  • Explain the meaning of words such as angry, sad, frustrated or worried. While you are reading together, talk about the different characters in the book and discuss how each character is feeling.
  • Children imitate everything their parents do. What do you do when you are angry or experiencing strong emotions? Your child is watching everything you do; take a break when you are angry and try to respond in a way you would like your child to imitate. Talk about your own feelings, "I was really frustrated when my computer wasn’t working."

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