Parents, HOW You Say It Is As Important As WHAT You Say!
I remember hearing people telling me, “Think before you speak.” As a child and teen, I could avoid saying hurtful things, stupid things, and unnecessary things when I remembered to “think before speaking.” Unfortunately, I sometimes spoke before thinking…and then suffered the consequences. Well, that advice holds true for parents as well as children. Parents, we need to think before we speak. We need to think about what we say and how we say what we need to say. In fact, how we say what we say will influence how our children learn and grow. Let me offer some examples.
- Instead of making general statements, be specific. Notice and acknowledge effort. Acknowledging effort encourages persistence in our children and sends the subtle message that hard work is important. For example, rather than making a general statement like “Great job,” say:
- “That took a lot of patience.”
- “I can tell you worked hard on that.”
- “I really like the combination of colors (or “materials” or “details”) you chose.”
- “That must have taken a lot of time and hard work to finish. You must be proud of it.”
- Instead of asking an open-ended question offer choices. Choices teach our children they have power; they are active agents in their world. Choices encourage them to take ownership of their power and accept responsibility for their decisions. For example, rather than asking “What do you want for a snack?” say:
- “You may have an apple or a cookie. Which do you prefer this time?”
- “Would you prefer green beans or broccoli with dinner?”
- “Do you want to wear your red shirt or your black shirt today?”
- Instead of asking “Why?” or making a demand to “Stop” some inappropriate behavior, validate their emotions or desires. Validation communicates the value and importance of their emotions and desires. It helps our children recognize their worth. Instead of saying, “what’s wrong with you?” or “stop that,” try saying:
- “You seem really sad. What’s going on?”
- “You are really angry, aren’t you?”
- “You really want playing with your Legos, don’t you?”
- Instead of telling your children about the behavior you don’t want, describe an alternative behavior you do want. By offering alternative behaviors, we teach our children the behaviors we value. Rather than saying “Don’t talk to me like that” or a general “Be careful” or “For the last time, you can’t have…,” try saying:
- “Be polite and use a calm voice please.”
- “Use both hands when you pick up the pitcher, please.”
- “Look at this fire truck. You can play with it instead of Tommy’s truck right now?”
Paying attention to how we say what we say does take some effort. It means paying attention to our words, thinking ahead to potential situations, and not speaking in anger. Although it takes some effort, you’ll love the benefit of watching your children grow and mature!