Becoming a parent brings along a lot of unknowns. How will we deal with certain situations? Are we doing it right? What will happen to my child if I do it this way or that?
However, one thing we need to learn as parents is that we cannot protect our children from the entire world, even if at times we would love to. The important thing as a parent is not to always protect your child from problems, but to help them deal with problems so that when it occurs again, they can tackle them on their own and become more resilient.
It is important during early childhood that you lay the foundations for a child’s emotional strength and adaptability. And in this, words play a large part, because what we say and how we say it can make a very big difference.
We have compiled a list of phrases that many parents, including us, use far too often, along with the simple alternatives you can use that will enable your child to look at things differently and become more resilient. And often we don’t even think about what we say, because it’s automatic and the actual intention is meant well and natural, but it can hurt your child’s self-confidence.
Remember, we are human. We all make mistakes. No one is perfect, but the important aspect is to never stop learning, even as parents.
Who doesn’t use this? Whenever our kids fall down, especially with younger children or toddlers, parents will come rushing before their child begins crying. It is well-intentioned, and the phrase is said, as a parent, to calm down and inform your child that it can trust you that everything will be all right. The thing is, that phrase looks at it from a parent’s perspective. When a child falls and hurts him/herself, they feel pain, they may be scared or afraid because they do not fully comprehend what just happened. By saying that everything is good, we unintentionally put our perspective of the situation onto our child and their emotions.
Alternative: “Is everything okay?”
The better alternative for children is to calmly, without anxiety or panic, and a relaxed body language to ask your child if it is okay. This way you convey that there is no danger, without the unintentional forcing of your parental perspective onto the child. Rather, this open question addresses your child and shows them that you as a parent accept their feelings, pain, sadness, being afraid, etc., and want to hear their perspective of the situation.
“Let me do this”
In today’s ever-on world, parents are busy. Rushing from one thing to the next, we as a society are losing our patience. You are behind schedule and your child still does not have their jacket on and zipped. Alternatively, maybe your toddler or baby can’t seem to put the block through the opening of their toy. Often parents, without really thinking about it, tend to intervene, even without being asked, because for the short term it makes it easier and quicker, and we can get things done. But these small things should be things that your child should master early on for the long term. It’ll make things much easier down the road as a parent and for your child.
Alternative: “Let me know if you need my help.”
What you’re ultimately doing as a parent is empowering your child and giving control of the situation to them, strengthening their self-confidence, because you convey the message of belief. And children need that. They need to know that regardless of the situation you trust and believe in them and that they know that in case they do need something, they can ask for your help. But also here walk the fine line and ensure they don’t misuse it. As a parent, you’ll know.
Say you want your child to learn to put on their shows. Offer verbal support while you watch them. “First, open the Velcro,” and then let them do the rest. You’re spurring thought. If they need additional help, allow them to ask.
“Stop. Not like that”
This phrase can be used in a lot of situations, and many parents use it automatically because it connects an action to a consequence. Things like holding scissors incorrectly or food falling off the plate or clothes put on backward. Your child does a certain action and there is a consequence of that action, and with this phrase, we intervene in that consequence. What we need to learn is that sometimes it’s okay to let the consequence of action happen. It should be a learning moment for your child. However, often we don’t let that happen. Yet, when children accomplish something on their own, it makes them feel accomplished and satisfied. Allow them to, every so often, do what they’re doing and then help them after they understood the action to the consequence. A better way to phrase this is:
Alternative: “May I tell you a trick?”
Actions and consequences are a double lesson. Allow them to put their clothes on backward and then help them realize that they did something right, but the outcome was still wrong. With the case of clothes, let them put it on backward, then use this phrase in a relaxed manner to help them understand how to do it better next time. Say the plate example: “If you hold the plate straight, then less spaghetti will fall down.”
“It’s easy, you can do it”
As an adult, you may think how this phrase can be unintentionally negative. I mean, you’re encouraging and supporting your child verbally. However, look at it from a child’s perspective. It may be easy for you because you know how to do it, however, it builds up pressure for a child that is unnecessary. Maybe your child wants to do it differently than how you think it should be done from a parental perspective. It is ultimately, especially, if your child tends to give up on things by him/herself, demotivating because we dismiss situations as easy, however, is difficult for your child.
Alternative: “I know it is difficult, but I believe you can do it”
The phrase does not sound much different from the one above, however, with simple word adjustments we now show our children that we understand the difficulty of the situation they may be in and convey again that we believe in them.
As parents, it is never easy to see our children unhappy. Whether they throw a tantrum or are just excessively wild, we want to support them and teach them how to cope with sadness, anger, or anxiety. However, as well as “calm down” is intentioned, it is not the greatest solution for any situation. What you are conveying as an adult towards the child is that they are overreacting and that the feelings they have are not justified to the situation. Perhaps not for you as a parent or adult, but for them, it is. This can lead to insecurity and weekend emotional intelligence.
Alternative: “Let us take a deep breathe together”
Teaching children how to deal with their feelings is important. As a parent, it is key to understand your child’s feelings, be there for them, and to stay calm in situations. Learning and displaying techniques of how to calm oneself will in the long run be vital in dealing with emotions and in situations where (your child) may be anxious or nervous. Deep breathing, a hug, a walk, or even cuddling may help. Adapt to your child and do it together. This gives them the reassurance that their feelings, whether “over the top” or when they are down, will pass, but are normal, and they are okay.
“Don’t fall down”
How often do you find yourself as a parent in a situation that gets your pulse running? Whether your child is climbing up something or racing down a hill on their bike? As parents, all of us have different tolerance levels for what we let our children try, but most of the time, after assessing the potential danger of the situation from an adults’ perspective, it’s better to stand by and watch rather than yell “lookout” or “be careful”.
Fear can quickly spread to children and prevent them from trying, especially trying new things. Again, you should intervene in an extremely dangerous situation, but allow your child to experiment to a certain extent so that they grow, challenge themselves, and learn to overcome that challenge.
The better alternative depends on the situation.
Alternative: “Slow down” or “Place one foot after the other”
Concrete tips to spur thought in your child allows them to master situations better and learn when and how to be careful on their own, and in what situations they need to do what. Hence, saying “let that child pass first” is better than “be careful”.
“You can do this on your own”
Children build resilience when they comprehend that things will not always work out the way they want them to and that they will make mistakes, which is completely okay! Yet, this does not mean that we as parents leave them alone with their problems. Children will feel empowered and encouraged knowing they can make mistakes in their attempts at things in life, by knowing that we as parents support them in doing so. But shoving off your child to find the solution to a problem they may be incurring is different. Be careful not to mix this up with the above “Let me do this” scenario.
Alternative: “Let us find a solution together”
This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to intervene. It can mean that you spur thoughts by asking questions like what alternatives could you do in this specific scenario. It could mean just sitting next to them and watching them find a solution, even if they fail, to encourage and have them know that we trust them. We are there, and they can ask if they really need help.
So you see, words have a very strong effect on the resilience of your child and their overall development. As parents in our busy lives, we tend to take things, like specific words, phrases, and sentences for granted, and because we are adults, think that we are in the right or doing it right. However, sometimes we just need to change a word or two to change the overall situation and/or outcome together with our children. Utilize phrases that empower your child to grow for the long term. The above are just a few common examples. We are sure there are plenty more.
Give it some thought and if you liked this article, please feel free to share it on social media