teachable moments


Parenting small children can be tough. But what’s important is work with the challenges, and turn them into teachable moments.

Yesterday morning, Phoebe came to me and said: “Theo just called me ‘stupid bad Phoebe.'”

“Theo!” I scolded. “Is this true?” Theo instantly dropped to the floor and hid his face from me, an apparent admission of guilt.

“Theo, that’s a hurtful thing to say. Those things are just not true.” Theo continued to avoid looking at me.

“What’s more,” I continued, “your choice of words is both unoriginal and uninspired.” I whipped out the thesaurus. “Look here, Theo. Instead of ‘stupid,’ there are plenty of other words you could have chosen: brainless, doltish, simpleminded, half-witted, thick-headed..obtuse! Now there’s a good one.”

“Obsoot?” Theo tried, tentatively, still face down on the floor.

“And instead of ‘bad,’ you could have used…let’s see…beastly, deficientinferior, atrocious, substandardPutrid! There’s a nice colorful word. How about putting beastly and doltish together?”

“Beasty goldfish?” Theo turned to look at me.

“Or maybe we can learn from some famous insults…” I quickly googled famous insults. “Ah yes, here we go: “Your mother was a hamster and your father smelled of elderberries!” Nice! But, no, no. That won’t do. Let’s not insult me! I’m your mother, too. Ooh, how about this? “You warthog-faced buffoon.” Yes, that’s the way. But better yet would be to make up your own. Think of an animal…or maybe a vegetable. Monkey…turnip…You can combine them with adjectives, like “doltish monkey” or “simpleminded turnip.” Or make compound nouns. How about calling her a substandard, simpleminded turnip-nosed monkey face? Brainless waterbuffalo? Putrid potato head? The combinations are endless! You just need to use your imagination.”

“Now, I want you to give Phoebe a hug and say you’re sorry,” I said sternly. “And next time you insult your sister, I expect to hear something more creative.”

Theo, thoroughly ashamed of his banal insult.



I’m going to borrow from Neil, here, and give a truth quotient. Let’s say 50%. I’ll let you guess which parts really happened.

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19 responses to “teachable moments

  1. Hilarious! I’m going to call my little brother an iniquitous imbecilic rutabaga-head next time I see him.

  2. 1st vocab, then spelling. lets get these kids ready for debate team.

    • Good point, Pigeon Heart. No one’s going to win a debate using adjectives like “bad” and “stupid.” Another reason I can’t let my kids slack off.

  3. Heh, beasty goldfish…

  4. Pingback: Language Blogs « student10119019

  5. One can never go wrong with Monty Python. Though, next he’ll be farting in your general direction.

    • I actually found myself relieved that, in spite of my disappointment in the lack of colorful imagery, Theo did not resort to potty humor.

      But I do like me some Python.

  6. Last year I sat on a chairlift (a ski chairlift) with some teenagers who kept exclaiming that it was “cold as balls.” It made me so mad. It’s unoriginal and nonsensical. Balls are never cold, for goodness sake. I spent the remainder of my day inventing better analogies!

    • Thanks for sharing that story, Jennifer. It made me smile. (And you are so right. I mean “hot as balls” at least makes some sort of sense. “Cold as balls” does not.)

  7. I think I might have said this before … but I never noticed what a great sense of humor you have until you had kids!

    • Thanks, R! I think my sense of humor has long been warped, but before the blog, I didn’t have so many opportunities to unleash it on the world. And I didn’t have a blog before having kids. (Though one of these days I may have to share a thing I was proud of way back before then. Back when I was working in the bookstore, I had to write monthly events calendars for the children’s department. One month, I made a faux draft for the manager to proofread with some less typical kids’ events.)

  8. Haha! This is exactly what those parenting books mean by teachable moments.

  9. That was pretty fantastic. When I was younger I once got mad at a friend and since I didn’t swear at the time, I angrily blurted out: “You, You potato head!” Needless to say I was made of fun for this for quite some time. No I wish I had thought to use an adjective too.

  10. you crack me up. next up, how to swear trilingually.

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