How to respond to your young child's 'inappropriate' behaviors.
In the course of a therapy we often bump into family secrets or painful situations that are not spoken about. The taboo on talking about difficult subjects is something that I also notice in some preschools and nursery schools protocols. When a child picks up a stick and starts 'shooting,' he or she is often met with a 'no, this is not allowed,' but no elaboration, no further communication. The 'no' to picking up a stick and shooting can be puzzling to a child. Why do I see adults shooting on tv and video games all the time, but am I not even allowed to pick up a stick and pretend to do the same thing? It is very puzzling, and without 'conversation' it just does not make sense. It is not uncommon that the child keeps repeating the action of shooting, implicitly questioning the adult, in an attempt to make sense of the adult's logic. A more constructive way would be to help the child find different ways to express his power, his strength, his ability to practice his 'aim.' Rather than forbidding it, the child can be congratulated for his strength and power, while at the same time being guided to a more complex way of expressing his aggression
When a 4 year old child made a phallic sculpture out of play dough and put it in his pants, he was reprimanded. But no further conversation was offered. Often those behaviors are implicit questions about sexual difference. Responding by congratulating the child on observing the difference between boys and girls, a conversation can be started, which would be more enriching and helpful for the child than a pure no.
What we communicate with these rejecting 'no's' to the child is that we are not comfortable talking about violence and sexuality. How difficult it is indeed to talk about the simple, basic things of life. However, in my experience being able to talk about these basic things of life is one of the most important gifts we can give to our children.