How often have we said to our significant others, “Honey, it’s not what you said, it’s just how you said it.” Well, I’m definitely guilty of that! Delivery can make all the difference. And, so it is with our children. Their feelings are just as intense as ours … actually, more so. They haven’t had years of experience with insensitive bosses or catty girlfriends. You get the picture. As the center of their universe, what Mom or Dad says goes to their core, impacting their self-image. Harsh words can make your child crestfallen. We now know from neuroscience that hurtful communication has an impact much like a punch in the nose.
So, let’s aim for better communication for you and the kids. Next time you want to want your child to use an “inside voice” or pick up their toys, consider tweaking the message ever so slightly. These simple rewrites can provide a positive outcome while deepening the connection between you and your child. You are showing your child that you hear them, you feel their frustration and you are there to help.
|Instead of …||Consider saying …|
|Don’t cry!||It’s OK to cry. What’s wrong?|
|Go brush your teeth.||It’s time to brush your teeth. Would you like to use the Paw Patrol toothbrush or the Batman toothbrush?|
|Who made this mess?||It looks like you were busy. Let’s set a timer and see if we can finish cleaning up before it rings.|
|Shhhh! Be quiet!||We are in church. (Mimic rotating dial.) Let’s lower the volume … 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.|
|Do you need a time out?||Could you use a break?|
|No, we can’t stay at the park.||You certainly like playing at the park. Would you like to come back tomorrow?|
|You can’t wear that!||You look so pretty in that Princess Anya dress, but it’s raincoat and boots day.|
|You’re fine.||Saying goodbye at school is hard. Want an extra hug?|
Add your own flourishes. In delivering these new versions of old messages, add some pizzazz. For example, when counting down “5,4,3,2,1,” count slowly, lower your voice with each number and add a fun, creaky sound to the imaginary dial. Have fun with it and be creative!
Susan Rudich is a school director, mommy-and-me leader, parent educator and a fellow of the Simms/Mann Institute’s First 36 Project. Project members study the latest in child development theories and neuroscience relating to ages 0-36 months. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org