How to make talking to your kids easier

Kids are masters of conversation, or at least some form of conversation. They’re imagination run so wild and they have a myriad of stories. Not to mention their tendency to ask so much questions to make your head spin. Talking to kids can be really challenging especially when you can’t find the right words to help them understand the lesson that you’re trying to teach them or how to get them to simply listen. In these situations, it helps to have effective phrases that we can use to achieve our end goal without getting frustrated or unnecessarily causing a negative reaction from both you and your kids

Phrases to avoid conflict

“I need you to” or “You need to”

When we make our requests sound optional unnecessarily causes a power struggle. Saying, “Do you want to pick up your toys?” is good IF you really want to give them an option not to do it. Of course you want your kids to learn how to clean up after themselves, so instead of giving them an option, we need to be more clear about what we want them to do. Try saying, “You need to pick up your toys, please.”.

“At the same time”

Using the word “but” can complicate already tense conversations. It can hurt your child’s feelings as it often means that you negate whatever came before the word “but”. Saying “Im sorry, but…” comes off as, “I’m sorry, but not really.” to the receiving end. Using the phrase “at the same time” will validate both what comes before and after it as coexisting truths. Try saying, “I’m sorry that you’re upset. At the same time, running away is not safe for you.”

Phrases to avoid assuming

“I see”

Stating your observations as you come upon a problem helps to prevent you from placing blame or making assumptions. This way, everyone will be more open to resolve the issue because they are aware that you’re starting from an unbiased place where you’re trying to understand what’s happening and not instantly placing blame on anyone. An example is saying, “I see two children who want the same toy.”. Describe what you’re seeing in a completely non-judge-mental manner. This way, you can then invite your kids to help you with the rest of the details of the situation without having to feel like they have to defend themselves from any ensuing blame.

“Tell me about”

You can use this phrase to avoid making any assumptions. Whether it’s to try to understand a fight between two kids or to have your child talk about their drawing. It’s better to ask for the child’s input rather than jump to assumptions. Saying, “What a nice fish!” might cause your child to close off any future of exploring their artistic side when you slam it with that comment about what was actually their version of a mermaid. So instead, try saying, “Tell me about your drawing.”. As for conflict resolution, try saying, “Tell me about what happened.” instead of jumping right in with, “I can’t believe you pushed him!”. This is especially true when the hitting was actually the result of an hour of teasing and taunting.

Phrases to reinforce independence and self confidence

“I love to watch you” or “I love to listen to you”

Positive reinforcements help motivate good behavior and positive self-perception. Simply letting a child know that you are watching them and enjoying them can go a long way in building their self esteem and confidence. Say things like, “I love watching you solve your puzzles.” or “I love listening to you play the piano.“.

“What do you think you could do”

Our time is so precious. We juggle a lot of things at the same time. As adults, we have already come across a lot of problems that it can be tempting to just swoop in and fix every little problem ourselves. This doesn’t bode well for letting kids have a sense of ownership and independence. Saying things like, “What do you think you could do to take care of the spilled juice?” or “What do you think you could do to make your friend feel better?” not only invites children to come up with a possible solution, but also reinforces a sense of ownership.

“How can I help”

Of course there are times when kids clearly needs our help. Maybe the problem is too much for them to handle and solve themselves. In these instances, we want to make sure that we are there to help them and not to rescue them and make everything go away. Try saying “How can I help you with your homework?” or “How can I help you with this broken glass?”. Offer them assistance without taking away their responsibilities.

Phrases to reinforce independence and self confidence

“Help me understand”

Saying “Help me understand” instead of instantly accussing and saying, “Explain yourself.” communicates that you don’t understand, but you want to understand. Say things like, “Help me understand what happened.” or “Help me understand your brother’s toy broke.”.

“What I know is”

There are times when our kids tell us things we know are not true. Maybe it’s flat out lying, a complete misunderstanding or just the usual magical thinking. It’s important to remember not to jump to saying, “You’re lying!” or “That’s a lie!”. Doing this will only make them shut down or become defensive. Calmly starting with saying what we know is true avoids argument and overreaction. Say things like, “What I know is that there were four brownies here when I left.” or “What I know is that toys can’t fly on move on their own.”.

Phrases to acknowledge and reaffirm

“I’m sorry.”

We make mistakes too. Sometimes our imperfections are the best starting point for important learning opportunities. Apologizing for our mistakes and shortcomings shows kids how to make appropriate apologies. It also teaches them that we all make mistakes. When kids see us acknowledge and apologize, they learn that they can and should do the same.

“Thank you.”

Acknowledging good deeds or good results is always important. We want to know our hard work is appreciated every day, so it’s only natural that our children would want to know that their effort is noticed as well. Say things like, “Thank you for listening to me.” or “Thank you for picking up your toys. I know you wanted to do other things first. I really appreciate you doing this.”. Always end things on a positive note.


“I love you.”

These three should come easily and frequently. With our words and with our actions, our kids should know that through thick and thin, we ALWAYS love them unconditionally.

Before, during and after any challenging situations with our kids, we should always make sure that they know that they are loved, no matter what happens.

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