So often, our parenting seems to happen in a blur. This seems to be even more true now, in the midst of the winter. We are tired, our kids are tired, and then we say the wrong thing and find ourselves embroiled in a power struggle, yelling or just totally exasperated with our kids.
As I have mentioned in previous articles, I find that it helps to have “catch phrases” at my fingertips. I like “catch phrases” because you can draw on them quickly. They can be used both when dealing with a minor parenting issue and also in the toughest of situations. The best thing about them is that they prevent the small stuff from getting out of control.
Here are some phrases that can work for you:
1. Phrases to stop power struggles:
When we need to enforce our rules and we know it’s going to start a cycle of arguing we can use the following phrases:
“At the same time…”
“You have 2 choices…”
“You don’t have to eat this…”
Here is how they work:
“I see you are angry… at the same time… I can’t let you hurt your brother.”
“I know you are frustrated…at the same time…your laundry needs to be put away.”
This phrase validates what comes before and after. This helps children hold the two different truths at the same time. Again, this is especially effective when discipline is causing upset.
“You have two choices…”
“You can color with markers or crayons…”
“You can hold my hand or sit in the stroller…”
“You can do your arts and crafts in the kitchen or the family room.”
Choices grab a kid’s attention and can distract them from the situation at hand by offering them some control. Most important, it helps you maintain your authority.
“You don’t have to eat this….”
This stops the power struggle about eating. This allows children to make their own decisions about their food choices, and lo and behold, when you take yourself out of the fray, your child might be more likely to eat.
2. Phrases to help discipline your children:
“I am sure you didn’t mean to…forget to brush your teeth.”
“This is so not like you…you are usually responsible about doing the dishes.”
“I know you will remember next time… (put your shoes away, do your summer homework, the rules about the iPad.)
These phrases help your child save face. It is hard to listen to criticism; this allows them to hear you and still believe that they are intrinsically good. It also helps us as parents.
When we stop to say, “I am sure you didn’t mean to…” we actually start to believe it. Kids generally don’t misbehave on purpose to get us angry. They make mistakes or misbehave because they are kids and they often don’t know any better. In this light, our children’s transgressions shrink to normal proportions. It calms us down and then we can discipline effectively.
3. Phrases to manage lying:
Kids will often lie. Sometimes they are scared and are trying to get out of trouble, or it could be magical thinking (if I say I brushed my teeth, it’s true) or it could be a misunderstanding.
You can use the following phrases to encourage honesty:
“You might think…”
“What I know is…”
Here is how they work:
When your child says: “But I washed my face!” or “I finished my homework!”
Instead of saying:
“You might think … you washed your face, there is still dirt on your nose.”
“You might think…you finished your homework, there are still some problems left…”
Or use this one:
“What I know is…”
For example, when kids say:
“I didn’t use the playdoh!” “I always do my homework!” “I brushed my teeth!”
“What I know is… there is playdoh in the carpet.”
“What I know is… Mrs. Cohen called me about missed homework.”
“What I know is…the toothbrush is dry.”
4. Phrases to stop temper tantrums:
Oftentimes our children are upset and we see them heading for a meltdown. We generally say things like, “Now, don’t start whining!” or “There is nothing to be upset about!” or “Here we go again!”
Instead, it is better if we lean in to the interaction and use phrases that offer some comfort:
“Looks like you can use a hug…”
“Is there anything I can help you with?”
“This was so disappointing!”
5. Phrases to manage repetitive requests:
Children will try anything to get you to give in to their endless demands for cookies, one more video game or extra time at the park.
“Sorry, sweetie, I am done talking about this…”
“Asked and answered…”
“I know you are sad. The answer is still no.”
My favorite phrase, from Love and Logic, is “Nice Try!”
It’s a firm but kind way lets kids know that you recognize their efforts to get you to change your mind. You appreciate their gumption and spunk. Yet, it’s still not going to happen.
It sounds like this:
Kid: “Mom, can I have more cookies?”
Mom: “It’s almost dinner time.”
Kid: “Just one more! I am starving!” or “You are so mean!”
Mom: “Nice try! Dinner is in 30 minutes! Can’t wait to see you there!”
So, there you have it. Some great phrases to help you manage your days with your kids!
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.