Encouraging Good Examples

IMG_1932My darling Abbey is a firecracker.

She’s got heaps and heaps of spirit, and only a small dose of self-control.

Let’s just say, we’re working on it.

It both excites me and drives me nuts that she is so full of spirit and energy for the things that drive her. I know she’ll be an awesome kid and an even more awesome adolescent – she has the capacity for such brilliance in her creativity and her passion for collaboration and communication. But where do I draw the line for her in the ways that are appropriate for communication and self-expression?

This has been something my husband and I have been working through for the past few months with our blossoming preschooler. Mostly, we have been focused on these three points: Choosing kindness, mutual respect, and finding good examples.

Dealing Gently with Inappropriate Behaviors


An Example of the Calvin Sticker Referenced

Recently, Abbey’s most inappropriate behavior has been imitating a preschool classmate in pretending to pee and poop on things, reminiscent of the Calvin and Hobbes bumper and window stickers that picture Calvin peeing on a certain object of interest to show the owner’s distaste in that brand, way of thought, etc.

Obviously, we found this totally inappropriate. I figured out by some active listening that Abbey was choosing to emulate a certain classmate that demonstrates this behavior, and after I talked to the teachers about it (who were unaware of the behavior) I decided to talk to Abbey about choosing good examples to copy instead of copying people who are making not-so-great decisions about appropriate behavior. Potty language is a normal preschool phase. Like baby talk or nanny-nanny boo-boo. But acting out the act of peeing on something. . . that was a different story.

“But I like Craig.” Abbey said sadly. “It’s fun playing with him. He’s nice!”

I explained to her that playing with her little friend was perfectly fine – great even. But that I needed her to understand that copying him wasn’t the best choice.

“What Craig 1 does when he pretends to pee or poop on things. . . ” Abbey giggled uncontrollably.

“It’s not funny, Abbey. It’s really inappropriate. Peeing and pooping on things or people is not funny and pretending to do so is very unkind.”

Drawing the line

I asked her if she could try not to copy Craig when he does something that is unkind or nasty. I suggested that maybe she try copying another friend’s favorite phrase or dance or story and see how much fun that could be. I tried to keep the conversation positive and make sure not to direct Abbey to avoid Craig in any way, just to choose kindness and find good examples to copy in her classroom.

After we talked about it, we played together and she chose to have one of her magnetic dolls copy the other magnetic doll. They played ring-around-the-rosy together.

“Ring around the rosy is really fun!” I said. “And, it’s a good, kind game to play with your friends.”

“Not like peeing!” Abbey announced, and she showed me how the pretend peeing is done, grabbing an invisible penis (obviously she doesn’t have one of those) and going “pssssssssssss!” . . .

and then of course, little Joseph copied her. . . pretending to pee on something . . . *sigh*

Like I said: Abbey’s a firecracker. We’re working on it.

How do you address limits and appropriate behaviors with your child?

Where do YOU draw the line?

Do you have any tips or tricks to share?


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  1. That is tough, and it sounds like you are working through it. Is there a way you could find a replacement activity for that type of play? As gross as peeing on something is, maybe you could point out how peeing on a person is gross and the person can feel bad, but….peeing on a campfire to put it out could be appropriate? Our children are generally allowed to express themselves however, but we make certain they understand that their rights end where another person’s begins. It sometimes take reminders, but kids in general are pretty great about thinking about others.

    • It’s just that once Abbey gets onto a subject like that, she just goes for gold with it. She doesn’t stop, even if it gets inappropriate or offends someone. So, we’re trying to encourage her to latch on to more appropriate and less gross topics and go with those!

  2. I had to chuckle just a little when I read about the pretending to poop or pee on things. My children do this as well. I haven’t done much to deter it, as I know that they do not see the behavior as I do and they will soon tire of it. Isn’t that they way all of there experiences are, they see things through a completely different lens than we do?

    Soon, they will find something else that is gross or annoying, and part of the reason we want them to find another way to express themselves is because we worry that their fascination will escalate into ever more shocking things. I really like the idea of active listening to find out why they are expressing themselves in that way. I hope my kids get tired of their game and that they won’t take it any farther than that. I suppose I will have to consider an appropriate response to let them know they have reached the limit of what it tolerable.

    • I know that they go through phases, but just like we teach them about their body parts and anatomy, we teach them about bodily functions, and that neither is truly a joking matter — and I want to be consistent with that. She has hundreds of other topics to joke about and play around. . . peeing on someone does not need to be one!


  1. [...] Encouraging Good Examples -Amy W. at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work encourages her spirited preschooler to choose good examples to copy in order to discourage inappropriate learned behaviors. [...]

  2. […] Encouraging Good Examples -Amy W. at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work encourages her spirited preschooler to choose good examples to copy in order to discourage inappropriate learned behaviors. […]

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