Powerful Phrases To Use When Your Child Is Being Challenging

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One thing no one tells you about parenting before you have kids is that it is so easy to wound them with your words.

And it is so hard to moderate what you say ALL THE TIME. Especially when they are being seemingly unreasonable, irrational or unrelenting.

I know during school holidays when it is 24/7 kids for days on end there can be a fair amount of unreasonable, irrational and unrelenting-ness happening at my house.

I caught myself the other day telling my children exactly what I thought of their behaviour, in a less than constructive manner.

It wasn’t until after that ugly exchange that I came across this article, outlining powerful phrases to use with kids.

Amanda Morgan, a childhood development expert and more importantly, mother of 4 boys, shares phrases she uses with her kids during challenging moments.

Here are the ones I really need to take on board:

“I need you to…/You need to…”

Trying to get kids to do stuff is nigh on impossible most of the time. And I often say “Can you…?” with the inevitable response “Yep, in a minute”. I really like the emphasis on need in this phrase, which imparts a sense of urgency and removes the optional nature of the request.

“Tell me about…”

My kids argue, dob and tell-tales all the time. I suspect this isn’t unusual for multi-sibling households. However, it can be hard to get to the root of any issues as there is often 3 sides to the story. This phrase gives each party the opportunity to tell their side!

“I see….” And “What I know is…”

As said above, being a referee is a challenging part of the parenting gig and it can be hard work getting the bottom of a situation. Working off what you can physically see starts the interaction off on an observational and non-judgemental footing. Putting these phrases and the above together works well. “I see a broken vase and your football. What I know is that the football only gets played with outside. Tell me about how this happened.”

“How can I help…” and “What do you think you could do….”

Morgan explains this best by saying, “…there are times when a child clearly needs our help, but we want to be sure we help, not rescue. We want to offer our abilities without taking away their responsibilities.”

Kids often want their parents to fix everything. I love that these phrases put the onus back on them and encourages problem-solving and critical thinking skills. I need to use this more as I often just say “Give it here!” or “I’ll do it”.

“Help me understand…”

Sometimes (a lot of times?) the things our children do don’t make sense. I have highly sensitive children who often have meltdowns over inexplicable things and often at inopportune times. This phrase will not only help me take a step back but it will also give the child time to process what is going on for them.

Morgan also recommends the frequent use of the phrases “I love you”, “Thank you” and “I’m sorry”. These I use often and with great results. Letting our children know they are loved no matter what is essential for their self-esteem, as is acknowledging their efforts and showing appreciation. It is also important for children to know that their parents are not infallible as it teaches them to own their mistakes and move on.

Do you have any powerful phrases you use regularly with your child?

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Renee Meier

Renée is a freelance writer, perpetual student and aspiring novelist. In her spare time she's the sole parent to 3 rambunctious little people. She survives predominantly on coffee and squishy hugs.

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