I was playing with my two year old where she was spooning sea shells into a bottle. I put out my hand to hold the bottle steady. This is something that she would often object to and she may say something like 'I don't need help' or 'leave alone, mommy'. This time she said 'chop your hand off mommy.' I asked her how and she replied 'with a knife mommy', then proceeded to add 'put your hand on the chopping board, I am going to chop it off'. I was obviously really stunned and upset. She articulated all of this in a pretty normal tone while playing.

My daughter only gets a half hour of TV at night which is always 'paw patrol'. She spends her day with a nanny who, though new to the job, seems to be adjusting. She goes to a drop in centre 4 days a week where there are some older kids, but she is quite on the timid side in social situations and does not interact all that much with them. We asked the nanny where she could have heard something like this and she had no idea.

I cannot imagine she would come up with such an idea herself or that she would get something so concrete in her limited interactions with other kids. The other possibility is television, unknown to us. This cannot be in the house as we have a cam. We also have a GPS tracker on her stroller and know where she is during the day and this is all public places. We are very worried about this and are considering a Montessori school for her. We are concerned that there is something in her current situation that is not right and also whether it is possible she has been threatened in some way. Is this an overreaction? We do not want to put her through another transition unless necessary.

From where I see this it seems like an over reaction yes, but it goes together with a somewhat protective behaviour (cam, stroller GPS tracker, ...). Kids tend to remember stuff when they hear it, was it only one time (and most of the time not the things you would like them to remember...), and she may have heard it anywhere kids play around her.

If you don't have any other clues about her being bullied/threatened, like a major change in behaviour, chances are big this is the case and it probably doesn't require any further attention.

That said, considering it is still a violent declaration, if she reiterates it you might want to have a short discussion with her explaining why this kind of saying is inappropriate, and maybe try to know where she heard it in the first place, which she might have forgotten as you can't possibly remember how and when you learned some things, you just happen at some point to know it...

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    +1 nice answer. The only thing I think I'd add is that there's a key thing missing here: the child hasn't demonstrated any understanding that chopping a hand off would hurt. That makes me think she hasn't been threatened. She might have the idea from chopping vegetables or some other people/children she's seen playing in public. I'm sure just saying "That would hurt!" would make here realise that chopping a hand off isn't necessarily nice. – Pam Sep 13 at 13:33
  • Thank you both for your responses. It was an isolated incident and she has not since repeated it. She does seem to be her usual self in other respects. It is true that she made the remark in an off hand manner which suggests that she did not understand the implications of what she was saying. She is very much into rolling and chopping her play dough these days so it may have been on her mind. A lot of her conversation also revolves around imaginary scenarios in which incredible things happen..and possibly this was just such another, with her not understanding the implications thank you. – Sim1010 Sep 13 at 15:36
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    People in safe societies such as North America and western Europe tend to forget that there is a reason for violent instincts in humans (survival), and a large part of growing up is learning when, where, and how it is appropriate to express them. – pojo-guy Sep 13 at 23:29
  • @pojo-guy well technically there are very few, if any, appropriate reasons to chop someone's hand... I'm not quite sure what your point is exactly? – Laurent S. Sep 14 at 7:05
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    The point it's that kids are learning, and will sometimes go overboard. They aren't limited to what they have seen modeled, and the rare fantasy that goes beuonf the blinds of acceptability is not cause for alarm, but merely a teaching moment. Chopping of hands is a specific instance of the general principle – pojo-guy Sep 14 at 11:01

Kids, even young kids, can indeed have what to us as adults seem like violent or perverse imaginations, and can come up with scenarios that shock us, even without being exposed to them elsewhere. (Many kids, in fact, enjoy discovering what things they can say that will shock their parents!) Ever since he was very little, my son has continually shocked me with the kinds of things he says (until I remember the things I came up with when I was his age).

That's not to say you should automatically discount what they say, but in a case like this-- where you're reasonably sure she's not repeating something she's heard or seen, and when she herself doesn't seem personally bothered by it --I wouldn't worry about it.

You have to remember that all of our brains are coming up with different ideas all the time, it's just that adults have learned to censor themselves. For a young child, with no real knowledge of the darker side of life, things that seem horrifying to we adults can instead seem funny, whimsical, or (at worst) harmlessly naughty. She's not picturing a graphic, bloody amputation, the way you are. She's just thinking how funny it would be if you were made of dough.

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    I agree. Kids aren't empty containers waiting to be filled up where, by managing the inflows and outflows, you can determine the liquid inside: they're a big soup of emotion and thought which needs to be separated, land from water, earth from sky. – Dannie Sep 14 at 22:09
  • Hi Chris..your edit makes clear the sub-text of my question which was whether a two year old can depict such a scenario on their own..I am not sure what was the case with my daughter..her tendency to lift complex quotations beyond her current skill level for language..and apply them to approximate situations make a it hard to judge..but I agree with your assessment that she could have made it up..especially as yesterday I saw her playfully making nicking motions on her dad's shoulder..rather like she was chopping him up..and looking a bit surprised that no one else was quite as amused.. – Sim1010 Sep 15 at 17:49

TL;DR: nothing to worry about. This strikes me as usual reasoning behaviour.

Something that stands out to me is your statement

she is quite on the timid side in social situations

Often, these children are not interacting because they are busy observing. It would not surprise me at all if she were picking up significantly more from her peers than they are from each other.

However, it strikes me as most likely that while you (or someone else) were making a meal and chopping vegetables on the chopping block, that it was explained to your daughter than the bits of the vegetables that are being chopped off are the bits you don't want to eat. This provides the basis for a logical reasoning that "if something is somewhere it shouldn't be, you could chop it off so that it isn't there anymore".

Without further refinement on this tidbit of knowledge, it applies to everything in the universe. She is progressing and attempting to use new phrases that she has heard in different ways that she believes logically fit. When she is then corrected that it doesn't fit, it helps to hone her understanding.

  • You are right..she is a pretty observant kid. In terms of her language her verbal learning is quite memory based.. where she stores up interesting/ complex words and phrases for future use..and can regurgitate them sometimes verbatim in roughly approximate situations..almost like reading sight words rather than learning to spell words from scratch..anyhows I was very concerned whether this was such an instance. However, it may have been an equally oblivious kid who came up with it.. – Sim1010 Sep 15 at 16:00

It sounds like a bit of an overreaction. I can easily imagine her getting that from some combination of seeing older kids playing as pirates (with a hook-hand), and the nursery-rhyme "three blind mice" ("...cut off their tails with a carving knife.."). Or even extrapolating from the Paw Patrol characters cutting up a tree to move it off the road (do they do that?) to "cut off the thing in the way" (and your hand was "in her way"). Heck, maybe it even came from you or someone else in the house saying something like "put the carrot on the chopping board, I am going to chop it up".

Even if it did come from school/daycare, after moving her around she would probably still be exposed to new violent things - its just part of culture. It seems as if it might be better to learn to talk with her about these things as they come up at home than to move her around to avoid them. I also think that if she had been threatened she would be acting scared, not casually talking about chopping body parts off.

I wouldn't bring it up again but if she does perhaps something as simple as "Don't be silly that would really hurt! When we chop veggies we try really hard to NOT cut ourselves as cutting ourselves hurt." I say not to bring it up again because the odd things that really stick out to me from my childhood are things where my mother overreacted over something I would have otherwise forgotten. I remember I once blurted out: "You're a murderer mommy!... A murderer of CHOCOLATE!" (because she DEVOURED chocolate) I thought it was really funny, she did not. I still remember how angry she got. If she had simply replied with "thats not a nice thing to say even when joking" and left it at that it probably wouldn't be one of those key unpleasant memories of childhood.

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