Communicating with Your Child


How to phrase your language in order to guide your child's behavior toward positive outcomes

When you communicate with your children, try to take responsibility for what you say and for what your child hears. Does your communication style result in power struggles, tantrums, or defensiveness from your child, or does it result in problem solving, compromise and acceptance of limits?

You can communicate in a way that will result in your child being willing to listen. Instead of saying things like, “You need to stop _____” or “You need to do this”, try getting down on your child’s level, making eye contact and saying calmly:

“I feel _______ when you ________” (ex: “It makes me feel scared when you run into your brother because it is not safe for his body. Please walk”)

“What I want is for you to ________” (ex: “What I want is for you to put your shoes on and carry your own lunch box.”

These phrases may also result in giving your child options, which is the way to compromise, but is also the way to set limits:

“I see your coat and lunchbox both need to be carried to the car. Can you carry both yourself or would you like to choose one item for me to carry?”

“It is time to clean up dinner. You may carry your plate or your cup to the dishwasher. Which would you like to choose?”

Giving options and using specific phrasing can really be applied to any situation at home, and the better and more comfortable you get at using this type of phrasing, the easier and more natural it will become. Your child will feel empowered in that they have a choice in the decision making, while at the same time you are a still able to guide or direct their behavior toward the desired outcome without it resulting in a battle of will.

If a power struggle does ensue, follow these 3 golden rules:

1. Do not negotiate with an upset child. Wait until the child is calmed down and can be respectful.

2. Acknowledge your child’s anger, “I understand that you are angry. When you are calm, we can discuss this.”

3. When your child is calm, help them brainstorm solutions. This will help your child build important problem solving skills while giving them a sense of power: “It was not helpful to grab your sister’s toy. What can you do next time if you want a turn with her toy?”

Were these tips helpful for you? Please leave your feedback in the comment section below and let me know how these phrases have worked for you at home!