The beautiful and harmonious upbringing of a child is like a journey. So, for today I think should concentrate on the phrases that your child really needs to hear from you! Especially when he’s angry. Next time we face an anger crisis, we can use one of the following statements, depending on the situation:
1. Instead of “Stop pulling… / stop throwing…”
You can use “You threw the toys so I think you don’t want to play with them anymore. Is that what happened?”
Imagine this technique as a small door that releases the child’s feelings, so that his emotions/boredom, his state won’t manifest itself in the form of conflict. This active communication technique allows you, now, to get along with your child without getting angry and to find out the exact reason for his behavior.
But it’s a wonderful exercise for all the similar situations that will come. Today he throws a toy, tomorrow he has an inappropriate tone, the day after tomorrow he refuses to go to swimming classes. There’s always a reason which affects his behavior.
He can throw the toys around the house because he’s bored of them. Maybe you talked too much on the phone or you had to write something on the laptop and he needs your attention.
From our “height”, things seem one way. But through his eyes things are quite different. And the abovementioned technique allows the child to express or reformulate his thoughts another way. The method works almost always. Because once the frustrations or dissatisfactions are verbalized, the parent understands the real reason, and the child’s need is solved.
2. Instead of: “Big boys/girls don’t cry/yell or Good boys/girls don’t cry/yell”
You can use: “We, grown-ups, also feel this way sometimes. I understand why you’re sad/dissatisfied/angry”
Let’s be honest! We start crying sometimes too, when we’re very angry with a colleague or an unpleasant boss. We also get angry every day because of reasons that some might call stupid, but which matter to us. And it doesn’t help us when someone tells us that we care too much or that the reason for our sadness is childish.
On the contrary! It makes us not want to speak – at least with that person – and become even more frustrated because we’re not understood and listened to. The fact that someone denies your sadness doesn’t make it go away, right?
The same thing happens with children. Indeed, compared to yours, their problems are tiny. But at that moment, it’s a big thing for them so we have to at least be empathetic.
3. Instead of: “Stop crying!”
You can use: “Sometimes I hurt myself too and it’s very painful. Let’s practice roaring and embrace the pain”
This is a technique that I’ve been using lately with Luca (3 years and 7 months). He likes a show on Disney Junior – “The Lion Guard” – where the main character, a lion cub, inherited a strong roar, which he uses to scare off his enemies and other dangers.
Thus, because he “saw” the might of the roar and because I don’t talk to him about abstract things that are hard for him to imagine – such as “managing our emotions” – I use this trick when he gets upset or even angry.
And I learned something important! Studies show that when we hurt ourselves, it helps if we scream in pain. Screaming interrupts the pain message that’s going to the brain. Thus, when the child gets hurt, it could help him more to cry out than to refrain.
4. Instead of: “Don’t you dare hit (me)”
You can use: “I understand that you’re angry, but I won’t let you hit (me). We don’t harm others, no matter how angry we are!”
It’s the best message that you can give your child: you acknowledge his emotions, you accept his state and you confirm that what he feels is normal. But his impulse or intention to hit/harm is not accepted. When he’s angry or when he hurts himself, the child instinctively wants to harm anybody who’s next to him, so that that person will suffer too. But with this phrase you help him separate anger from action. And it will be useful for him in the future too.
5. Instead of: “Wash your teeth now!”
You can use: “Do you want to clean the teddy bear’s teeth first and then yours?” or “Do you want to tickle the front or back teeth first?”
If you have a toddler or a preschooler, you already know that a simple routine is very tiring. The child will exploit any situation in order to impose his control, so that he can do whatever he wants. And this rebellion is against normal, everyday activities, such as washing, dressing, gathering toys, sitting at the table, sleeping.
It’ll help you come up with options (“first the teddy bear, then you”) or turn the activity into a funny game (“let’s tickle the teeth”).
6. Instead of: “You either eat everything, or you go to your room and go to sleep hungry”
You can use: “How can we put his tasty food in your tummy?”
7. Instead of: “Your room is a mess! Don’t come out until you clean it”
You can use: “What would you say if we clean this corner of your room. I’ll help you”. Instead of concentrating on the 10-12-14 square meters of mess – a daunting task even for you – attract your kid by offering him a new perspective on things: a corner of the room. A corner is fairly easy to clean, right? And thus you have a much better chance to make him work with you.
And then, if you use an hourglass, a timer or even an alarm on your phone, you can race to see how many toys you can pick up in 5 minutes. Not only will you achieve your objective: cleaning the room, but everything will be done in a calming and relaxing manner for both of you, even though we’re talking about cleaning. It’s the perfect way that both of you need.
8. Instead of: “Hey! We need to leave now! Get dressed already!!!”
You can use: “What do you have to do/what to you need to get ready?”
Allow your child to get ready for the daily routine in his own rhythm. You know very well what it’s like to always be on the run, that you need 3 minutes to put make-up on, 2 to get dressed, 5 to eat and 1 to go out the door. Your child will never follow your schedule, especially when it’s so hectic and he feels unprepared and rushed.
So, in the morning – especially – repeat to him the schedule: we eat until… or until the alarm rings. Then we take the backpack, put our shoes on and leave. Tell him early on to decide if he would like to take a toy with him and which one. Pick the clothes together in the evening or pick by yourself two options, and let him choose one in the morning.
I have a trick here: because Luca started kindergarten just 4 months ago, the morning is still a sensitive time for him. I didn’t always hear the alarm or I hit the snooze button, so from time to time I was in a situation where I had to rush him. And it was difficult. Taking off the pajamas and dressing him into kindergarten clothes could take even 15-20 minutes!
So I have a trick that I’m going to use only for a short period of time: I dress him with the kindergarten clothes before he wakes up. I’ve timed myself and I only need 3 minutes to take off the pajamas and dress him. Only then I would wake him. I always make sure his clothes and mine are ready in the evening, the same goes for the backpack.
9. Instead of: “Stop screaming”
You can use: “Try talking to me in your normal voice. When you scream, I can’t understand what you’re saying”
Children love noise. The one they make, of course. So they end up communicating by screaming. Also, screams are always present in a fit of anger. That’s why you need to make sure that you tell your child – in both cases – that you’ll understand the message when he’ll use his normal voice. By asking him to repeat himself using a calm and normal voice, you’ll teach him that that’s the proper way to do it, regardless of the volcano of states that lies within us.
10. Instead of: “Stop whining”
You can use: “I’m listening. Can we find a solution together?”
Again, this technique puts the responsibility in the child’s hands. You’re a guide, and the child is the one who’s looking for his own solutions, encouraged by your understanding attitude.
11. Instead of: “How many times do I need to repeat myself?”
You can use: “I see that you didn’t hear me the first time. I’ll tell you again and then I’ll ask you to repeat”
By using this method, you make sure that your message has been heard and understood by the child. Come down to his level and use a soothing voice when you formulate this request.
12. Instead of: “Go to your room”
You can use: “I’ll stay here until you’re ready for a hug”
There are times when, because you’re so angry, you want to tell your child to go to his room. But isolation conveys the message that there’s something wrong with him. Give him space until he’s ready, reassure him that you’re with him, and thus the message that you’re sending him is one of safety.
13. Instead of: “You embarrass me”
You can use: “Let’s go to a private place and solve this problem”
The feeling of shame is completely yours. But this is not about you. It’s about him, about his feelings. At the same time, you two are a team! You take care of him, he takes care of you. So try not to attract attention to his inappropriate behavior when there are other people present. Shame and guilt will only confuse the situation further. Through this technique you’re telling him that, no matter what he does, you’re there to find a solution, without embarrassing him.
14. Instead of: “You’re impossible”
You can use: “You’re going through a difficult moment now. I understand. Let’s see how we can fix this problem together”
Separate your child’s reaction from your feelings! When we go through difficult moments, we behave the worst with those we care about the most. Because we feel safe enough in their presence to become pray to emotions. The secret is maintaining the team, the support. “Let’s see how we can solve this together!” helps a lot more than criticism or labeling of behavior.
15. Instead of: “I can’t talk to you right now”
You can use: “I’m starting to get angry. I’m leaving the room for 1 minute to calm down, and then I’m coming back to talk about this”
Teach your child that getting angry is normal. We can’t control our feelings and emotions, but we can control the way we react in front of them. And the child learns a lot through observation. So these situations, from real life, are the best lesson.
16. Instead of: “Stop saying NO!”
You can use: “I understand that you don’t want that. Let’s see what we can do/take differently”
When the child refuses something, or says NO!, and you tell him that you understand, he’ll calm down quickly. Because he knows you understood him. Instead of arguing about Yes and No, you’re focusing on a solution. It’s much easier and you’ll notice that the rigid attitude of your child will change quickly. He felt heard, he saw that a new solution is being tried, that he’s not ignored, that his voice and feelings matter.
17. Instead of weeping and rolling your eyes
You can use visual contact, quickly remember the things that your child does well and smile to him