Does He REALLY Understand?

TJ had to sit for a timeout twice tonight. And it’s not just that Tom and I are both sick – with a flu variant – these were infractions that would have warranted a timeout on any other night.

  1. TJ decided to play in the sink after he used the potty around 5:30. There was water everywhere. He had gotten in trouble for running water in his sneakers last week.
  2. About 20 minutes later, TJ hit Tom in the head with a chair. Granted, it was a small plastic chair that fits his tot-sized plastic desk; it still hurts when it connects with your head. Unsure whether or not it was intentional; I tend to think it was an accident, because I’ve had to warn him off of holding it over his head before.

My concern is this. He always gets upset when he has to sit for his timeout. I expect that. And he always shows remorse afterwards, so that’s good, too. And empathy when someone gets hurt.  But in our usual “let’s make up” chat each time, he barely let me say, “Now buddy, you know that you can’t…” before he interrupted me.

“I understand.”

I blinked at him the first time. “What do you understand?”

“I understand you, Mommy.  I love you.” And then he hugged me.

I was unnerved by this the first time.  I was more than unnerved the second time. 

One of the things that came out in his preschool evaluation (for which we had the CPSE meeting today; he doesn’t qualify for services at this point) was his use of scripted language.  I think he’s learned the script for what happens when he gets in trouble, and he’s trying to just cut to the chase. Whenever he has a timeout, I talk to him afterwards to ask him why he had to sit, to get him to apologize for what he did, and to get him to say he won’t do it again. I generally end with, “Do you understand?” And he replies, “I understand.”

Except that he decided to start with the understanding part tonight. Twice. He didn’t want to talk about what he did wrong. I did manage to get him to repeat the important parts after me, but I think you’ll forgive me if I doubt his sincerity.

The good part is that he did go upstairs to apologize to Tom for hitting him with the chair. (I had to send Tom to his room for being too harsh with TJ after getting the chair in the face. Tom didn’t exactly mind this, and went up to set up the vaporizer.) Of course, when I said, “Do you have something you’d like to say to Daddy?” THIS is the order in which he said things… with prompting after every line.

“How do you feel, Daddy? Good? Okay!”
“I won’t hurt Daddy ever again.”
“I won’t hit Mommy and Daddy or TJ or chairs…”
“I love you, Daddy. Very much.”
“I’m sorry.”

Should I be worried about the scripted language? Or is this age-appropriate for a 3 year old? Have you had any experience with this from your kids?

Christina Gleason (975 Posts)

That’s me: Christina Gleason. I’m a professional copywriter, editor, and blogger. My company is called Phenomenal Content. (Hire me!) I'm a multiply disabled autistic woman doing my best in this world built for abled people. I’m a geek for grammar, fantasy, and select types of gaming, including Twitch Sings and Plants vs Zombies 2. I hate vegetables. I have an intense phone phobia, so I’ll happily conduct business over email or IM instead.


  1. I’d be worried too 🙁 Try and get him to tell you in his own words what he did wrong instead of asking if he understands. That’s a trick that works with pretty much any age group. If he says he upset you and that is what he did wrong make him explain why it upset you etc. Good luck! 🙂

  2. Joe does the same thing. He swears he’ll listen, and he’s sorry and he loves us more than anything. Then, “Well, what did Mommy just tell you?” “um…. I don’t remember…” or, “I made you mad.”

    What I have done is just told him to go sit down until he can remember–waited a few minutes, had the talk again, and made him go tell his Dad what I said. Generally after the period of waiting and the second talk, he says it without repeating me exactly and actually gets it, at least for a little while, I think.

    It’s just a kid thing. They all learn the scripted language. Someday, they’ll really listen to us, I hope.


  1. […] Christina on March 30, 2009 TJ had his OT/PT evlauation today, as discussed when we had his first CPSE meeting with the school district back in January. I’d completely dropped the ball on this one. First […]

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