I joke that I need a voice recorder with a handful of phrases pre-recorded on it. Then, instead of repeating myself to the kids all day long, I can just push a button! Button 1 would say, “Please close the door!” Button 2 would say, “Please speak with kindness!”
We really do try to speak with kindness around here. Admittedly, I fail. A lot. Exasperation tends to creep into my speech as the day goes on, sometimes even before I’ve gotten breakfast on the table. Despite that, I’m very aware of how damaging an off-handed, thoughtless comment can be to a child. And I’m determined to damage my kids as little as possible!
One way I go about that is by giving myself lots of prefabricated positive phrases to choose from. I have a mental list that I go to all day long. This may sound really contrived, but for a busy Mom running on fumes, it’s what works for me.
Instead of yelling “don’t’s” all day, I try to use positive statements. For example, “Don’t throw your dirty clothes on the floor,” can just as easily be said, “Please put your dirty clothes in the laundry basket.” It’s a kinder way of asking that is much better received by my children. It also models good manners which is something we talk about a lot over here.
Below are a slew of phrases (some encouraging, some disciplining, some just reassuring) that I use or that I’ve heard others use that help me with positive parenting:
“You looked awesome out there!”
“You must be so proud of yourself!”
“You can be mad, but you can’t be mean.” (This gives my kids permission to be angry! It’s a normal, healthy emotion – one I don’t want to squelch. But it’s not okay for anger to bubble over into hitting or saying mean things.)
“That is your choice.” (This phrase is incredibly powerful. My daughter used to fight me about doing her homework. If she’d refuse, I’d use this phrase and remind her of the natural consequences of bad grades, disappointing her teacher, and falling behind academically.)
“Please use your manners” or “Try that again, this time using your manners.”
“Please speak with kindness” or “You may not speak to me that way. Please try it again with respect.”
“Keep getting dressed for school so the TV can stay on” instead of “If you don’t get dressed for school, I’m going to turn off the TV.” (This is one I just came up with that has really been working well. Instead of threatening to take away a privilege – in this case, watching TV while getting ready for school – I’m encouraging them to keep the privilege.)
“Always tell the truth” instead of “Don’t lie to me.”
“Think of others before you think of yourself” instead of “Stop being so selfish.”
“Please talk like a big girl” instead of “Stop talking like a baby.” (This is a personal pet peeve.)
“I love you!” The importance of this phrase cannot be overstated. I say it over and over again. I can’t say it enough! Growing up, my family didn’t say this until I was a teenager. It was then that my much-younger little sister started telling us all that she loved us before going to bed at night, and we hesitantly began following suit. Thank goodness! They are powerful words that I needed to hear!
So, what if you mess up? What if you say something hurtful or downright mean-spirited? It is very humbling, but once things have cooled down, I always apologize if I am out of line. And I know know full well whether I was out of line or not.
With my daughter, I find my apology makes her cry the hardest. It’s heart-breaking, but I need to see how much my thoughtless words can hurt her. And my ability to apologize shows her that I am not perfect, that I love her, and that I am willing to admit when I’ve made a mistake.
Much (imperfect) Mommy Love, Mommy Mentor CurlyQ
What are some positive parenting phrases that you use? Let us know in the comments section below or on our facebook page.