1. No (running, hitting, yelling, fill in the verb)! Kids hear the word “no” far too frequently .Train yourself to say what you want them to do instead of what you don’t. So, you can say “Walk, please” instead of “No running”.
2. Good job! . Train yourself to respond with “You did it!” or “You got it!” or “You figured it out!”. Notice the common element is starting with the word “you” and then acknowledging what they worked at, rather than what you think about it.
3. Don’t argue with me. Children are programmed to question, analyze and wonder about situations. This can sometimes present itself in an argumentative manner, but this is actually a normal part of development. Instead of cutting off the conversation, you can say, “I know you want my answer to be different, but it will not change”. You can also train yourself to make sure the child fully understands your response, with “I just told you my answer. Do you have a question about it?” This allows the child to present their opinion or get clarification. Either way, the child is allowed to express their thoughts or concerns and feel validated without an argument.
4. Wait until your Dad/Mom/other person finds out about this. This does two things. First, it creates anxiety and fear in the child, especially of the person who you are going to tell about whatever happened. Second, it ignores your responsibility to deal with the issue at hand and passes it to someone else. By the time a child has gotten in trouble for something, they already feel guilty, sorry and embarrassed about it. Threatening to tell someone else rubs salt in the wound. Choose whether the other person really needs to know about the issue, and if yes, let the child decide who will tell them. “Do you choose to tell (Mom) what happened, or choose for me to tell her with you there to make sure that I explain it correctly?” This gives the child respect and responsibility for their actions.
5. If you do that one more time… I can’t tell you the number of times I hear that phrase when around other parents, even though it is highly ineffective. First, you are threatening a child, which makes them fearful of you. Second, the threat is usually not something that is feasible to do (we are going home, you are going straight to bed, you don’t get dinner, you are grounded for a week, etc.) What we say in frustration is not only impractical but easily forgettable. Then we contradict our credibility.
6. You are doing that the wrong way. Parents tend to want control all of the time, and it takes work to allow kids to have freedom to do what they choose. Of course, there will be times when a task must be completed in a certain fashion (homework, etc.). However, many times we force kids to do something the “right way”, when it could have been done in several ways.
7. That is what happens when you… We often try to teach lesson to kids about life at the most inappropriate times. If a child gets hurt because they were doing something dangerous or inappropriate, they already learned their lesson. It is wasted words to try to express a rule when a child is upset, as they focus on one thing at a time
8. You can’t/Don’t do that. Telling a child that they can’t do something makes them prove that they can, by telling you or showing you that it is in fact possible. Telling a kid to not do something makes them want to argue or rebel. Train yourself to explain the reason behind your statement.
9. We are (whatever the child doesn’t want to do at that moment), OKAY? In an attempt to be kind and loving to children, parents tend to ask kids for their approval. The reality is that asking your child if it is okay sets you up for an argument when the child says no. This helps the child feel understood, but still communicates that leaving is non-negotiable.
10. You are making me really mad right now. Parents tend to let their children control their emotions, when it is the parent who is ultimately responsible for how they feel. It is also important for kids to understand that they choose what they feel, and they are not creating emotions in you. Train yourself to say, “I need a break right now because I am getting upset” or “I am angry right now”. You can communicate your feelings to your children without placing the burden of cause on them.
Retraining your way of speaking will take time and energy.