Being a parent often feels like being a mix of a motivational speaker, stand-up comedian, and drill sergeant. Sometimes I speak without thinking first — never a good idea — and other times I’m just stumped as to what is the right or best thing to say.
For a Job Well Done
Instead of offering praise for every job well done (no matter how small) ask your kid, “How does that make you feel?”. This gives her the chance to decide how she feels about an accomplishment or a triumph. The same goes for the reverse. If she forgets to turn in her homework two days in a row, instead of telling her how you feel about that, ask her how she feels. In either instance this approach allows your child to reflect on their feelings rather than having you fill in the blank for them.
Listen To Your Body
As parents, from the time they’re born we spend a lot of time tending to our children’s physical needs. We’ve tuned in to their symptoms as well as the source of their physical complaints so we are tempted to tell them why they feel sick (You just ate an entire bag of candy!) or extra tired (I know — you were up reading until past midnight!). Since they’re the ones living inside their skin, it’s important they get in touch with how their bodies feel, and why. Teach them to go beyond identifying what they’re feeling and to link it to a possible cause. Learning to listen to and heed their body’s signals is a skill they’ll use throughout their lives.
This one works both ways. Because our kids are sensitive to our moods and take cues from our behavior, if we are rushed and hurried, they feel that way too. “Hurry up and tie your shoes or we’ll be late” and “You’re going to miss the bus if you don’t get up right now!” translates into stressful feelings for both of you. Try to catch yourself in these types of situations, slow down, take a long inhale and exhale, and then, get on your child’s eye level and help him do the same.
Is there a Silver Lining?
Disappointment is hard to handle when you’re a kid— they want what they want when they want it. But since disappointment is a fact of life you’re doing her a disservice if you rescue him from feeling bad or sad when things don’t go as planned. Instead, use disappointment as an opportunity to teach her how to adapt, manage her feelings and look for the silver lining. Say something like, “I know you really wanted a play date with Sarah, but she’s sick and can’t come over. Since we’ll be home together let’s think of something we can do—how about make her a get well card?
Let Me Think About It
“Can I go on a camping trip with Sam’s family? Please say yes Mom; I really want to go!” Sometimes when you don’t know how to best respond to a question, buy yourself some time to think about it by responding, “Let me think about that.” Not only is this a helpful strategy for you, it shows him that some decisions take time to consider and it’s not possible, or necessary, to come up with an answer right off the bat.
“The most effective way to speak to a kid is to use simple words and sentences that allow you to accept his feelings but follow through on your rules,” says Wendy Mogel, Ph.D., and author of The Blessing of a Skinned Knee. Her book has lots of helpful insights and advice on this topic.” Check it out to learn more.