How to explain F*CK YOU to a 5 year old
How do you explain f*ck you to a 5 year old? Or anything to someone who just doesn't get it?
A while back the following email came to my inbox.
Today Albert said some not nice words. F--- You. Thanks for talking to him more tonight. We tried to help him understand why that was not ok.
Let's set the scene...
- Christian School
- Pre-K Classroom
- Table of 6
- The only little girl at the table is the recipient of my son's idiomatic explorations
I'm sure he has heard the word. (I owned a restaurant at the time and he spent 80% of his life to that point growing up in the back of the house.) Ends up it was his buddies at school and afterschool. Two different sets of kids.
How do you explain to a 5 year old, who needs a reason for everything, what that phrase means?
Option 1: Because I said so
"Because I said so!" can be effective in the short term, but it is never effective in the long term. How many of you remember "Because I said so!" having a lasting impact on your life?
Option 2: When two consenting adults think each other look hot...
Option 3: Redefine. Frame context. Ask for feedback.
So ultimately I had to figure out how to redefine the meaning and frame it in a context that he could understand. It went something like this:
Me: Do you know what that word means?
(Slamming my fist on the table hard enough that it was a bit uncomfortable)
Me: When you say "F*CK you!" to someone it means you want to punch them this hard in the face and hope their teeth get knocked out. And then when they fall to the ground you want to keep kicking them until they bleed and some of their bones break. Did you want to do that to her?
Albert: (starting to get a little teary-eyed) No, she's my friend.
Me: Then I suggest you not say that anymore. And tomorrow you need to make it right and apologize
Has he said it since? Nope.
Did I threaten physical punishment? Nope.
Redefine. Frame context. Ask for feedback.
It works for adults to.
When your employees or coworkers make irresponsible decisions that affect the viability of you your team and business (read... do stupid stuff), just try it instead of blowing up at them.
It is still serious.
I'm not advocating hand holding, bubble wrapping your words for their emotional protection or diminishing the gravity of the situation.
My son was very aware of the seriousness of his actions when we were through discussing.
It is more important to understand "why not", rather than to just know "not".
Reframe the context.
Ask for feedback.
P.S. Yes I said F-ck at my 5 year old while explaining why he should not say it. Please hold your applause for "Father of the Year" nominations.