Name calling is a serious offense whether your child is a toddler or a teenager. It is important that as a parent, you step in to name calling situations and teach your children that this is not acceptable behavior. Instead it is a behavior that strikes and the most vulnerable parts of a psyche that is still developing and can do irreparable harm to its victims.
Children call each other names for a variety of reasons. As a parent, it is your job to teach your children alternate methods of communication and to model respectful behavior. It is also your job to determine the cause and the type of name calling that is going on and to know when to step in. Your children should know that it is never acceptable to name call, but there are some times when they don't need you to step in and shut it down.
When your children use name calling in order to get attention from you, for example, you should make an effort not to be affected and not to get involved. You cannot let your child manipulate you. If your children are using name calling to irritate each other over nothing, then you may also want to stay out of it. This kind of fight is a normal part of how children learn to interact with others.
Siblings make very safe targets for that kind of exploration. The most important one to stop is the kind of name calling that results from an emotionally damaging quarrel. This is the name calling behavior that will erode target children's happiness and self esteem. It is the name calling that they end up believing.
When your children begin name calling, it is time to stop and take a good hard look at communication in your family. The first thing that you need to do to stop name calling is to model appropriate communication behavior for your kids. This means that you need to monitor your communication patterns with your spouse and your children particularly.
You cannot use names or even negative labels when you communicate or else you will hurt your children and teach them to do the same. Instead, practice converting negatives to positives. If you want to tell your child to stop acting mean with their sibling, then tell them to treat their siblings kindly. If you are arguing with your spouse, then hold back from saying that they are an idiot, instead ask them to listen to what you have to say before making a decision. When your child begins name calling, step in and remind them that your family doesn't do that. Then model the appropriate communication methods for them.
Once you are certain that your child has had a chance to absorb this lesson make sure that you reinforce the message and keep it consistent. If a child breaks the name calling rules, then remind them of the rules before carrying out a predetermined punishment. This strategy will allow you and your family to develop healthy alternatives to name calling.