Next time you find yourself dealing with a toddler tantrum, or a cold shoulder from your teen put your best foot forward by trying one of these 20 phrases:
- Instead of “Stop throwing things!”
Try this: “When you throw your toys, I think you don’t like playing with them. Is that what’s going on?”
This speaker/listener technique is designed to help communicate feelings in a non-confrontational manner. Not only does this keep the lines of communication open, you are modeling how to phrase a situation from your perspective, which in turn gives your child a chance to rephrase events from their perspective.
- Instead of “Big kids don’t do this!”
Try this: “Big kids and even grown-ups sometimes have big feelings. It’s okay — these feelings will pass.”
Let’s be honest, the older your kids get, the bigger the problems they face, the bigger the feelings they have. Telling them that big kids don’t experience anger, frustration, or anxiety is simply untrue. It also encourages children to avoid or quash emotions and prevents them from processing them in a healthy manner.
- Instead of: “Don’t you dare hit!”
Try this: “It’s okay to be angry, but I won’t let you hit. We need to keep everyone safe.”
This gets the message firmly across that the emotion is okay, but the action is not. Separating the two will help your child learn to do so as well.
- Instead of: “That’s it, you’re getting a time-out!”
Try this: “Let’s go to our calm-down space together.”
My Favorite, because I hate the sentence Time out
- Instead of: “Brush your teeth right now!”
Try this: “Do you want to brush Elmo’s teeth first or yours?”
For toddlers, tantrums are a way to exert control over their environment. This way, you are offering your toddler a choice, and in turn, some control.
- Instead of “Eat your food or you will go to bed hungry!”
Try this: “What can we do to make this food yummy?”
This places the responsibility of finding a solution back on your child.
- Instead of “Stop whining!”
Try this: “How about a quick ‘do-over’ in your normal voice?”
Sometimes kids complaint and don’t even realize it. By asking them to rephrase in a normal tone, you are teaching them that the way they say things matters.
- Instead of “How many times do I have to say the same thing?”
Try this: “I can see you didn’t hear me the first time. How about when I say it to you, you whisper it back to me?”
Having your child repeat back what they hear solidifies your message. Varying the volume adds an element of fun to the request.
- Instead of “Stop getting frustrated!”
Try this let’s take a break and come back to it in 17 minutes.”
It sounds random, but a research-based formula for productivity is to work for 52 minutes, break for 17. By taking a break from task-related stress, you come back to it ready to begin again, focused and more productive than before. The same concept applies to homework, practicing the piano, or playing a sport.
- Instead of “Go to your room!”
Try this: “I’m going to stay right here by you until you’re ready for a hug.”
Again, isolation sends the message that there is something wrong with your child. By giving them space until they are ready to re-engage, you are providing reassurance that you will always be there for them.
- Instead of “You are embarrassing me!”
Try this: “Let’s go somewhere private so we can sort this out.”
Remember, it’s not about you. It’s about them and their feelings. By removing both of you from the situation, you are reinforcing the team effort without drawing attention to the behavior.
- Instead of sighing and rolling your eyes
Try this: Make eye contact, remember your child’s greatest strengths, and give them a compassionate smile.
Practice keeping it in perspective by seeing the strengths in your child.
- Instead of “You are impossible!”
Try this: “You are having a tough time. Let’s figure this out together.”
Always, always separate the behavior from the child, reinforce the emotion, and work together to come up with a solution.
- Instead of “Stop yelling!”
Try this: “I’m going to pretend I’m blowing out birthday candles. Will you do it with me?”
Deep breathing helps restore the body to a calm state. Being playful with how you engage in the breathing hastens cooperation. For older children, ask them to breathe with you like Darth Vader does.
- Instead of “I can’t deal with you right now!”
Try this: “I’m starting to get frustrated, and I’m going to be right here calming down.”
Teach children how to label and govern their emotions by modeling this in real-time.
- Instead of “I’m done talking!”
Try this: “I love you. I need you to understand what I ma saying.
Give children a visual to express how they are feeling. It may surprise you what they say and what kind of solutions they come up with to change their direction.
- Instead of “I am notchanging it!”
Try this: “I’m sorry. How can we do better next time?”
Shifting the focus from the event to the solution eliminates the power struggle associated with digging in your heels about the event.
- Instead of “Stop saying ‘No!’”
Try this: “I hear you saying ‘No.’ I understand you do not want this. Let’s figure out what we can do differently.
By acknowledging your child’s “no,” you are de-escalating the situation. Rather than arguing yes/no, change the script to focus on the future and the prospect of a solution.
- Instead of “Don’t be angry!”
Try this: “I get angry too sometimes. Let’s try our warrior cry to get those angry feelings in check.”
A recent study reveals that yelling when we are physically hurt can actually interrupt pain messages being sent to the brain. Although your child may not be in pain per se, a warrior cry can work to release angry energy in a playful manner.
- Instead of “Stop overreacting!”
Try this: “You are having a big reaction to a big emotion. If your emotion had a monster’s face, what would it look like?”
When kids are tired, hungry, or overstimulated, they are going to overreact. Putting a face to the emotion externalize the issue and allows children to respond to their inner monologue of anger. This subsequently helps them exercise control over the emotion.
I hope you found this article useful next time you confront your angry child