Help Me Grow | United Way of Utah County

6 Phrases for Successful Interactions with Your Child

“Why didn’t I think of that?” frequently crosses the minds of parents watching other parents handle their children successfully in the grocery store, during a playdate, or out in public. Memorizing some short basic phrases and the situations in which to use them creates confidence even in doubtful parents.

1. Say yes more than you say no. Even when you have to say no it can be done gently. For example, “I know you want a cookie, you can have one after dinner.”

2. Make waiting easier with a “when-then” phrase. Saying No often creates a situation where children must wait. Visual strategies such as a clock or stopwatch, or a “When – Then” card helps preschoolers learn to wait. A “When – Then” card creates a context for the waiting time by stating what will happen before he can have cookies. For example, “When you are finished with your TV show we can start making dinner. Then we will sit at the table and eat it and then we will have cookies.” Creating context allows the child to tackle a difficult task in smaller increments.

3. When asking a child not to do a certain behavior, give him an alternate behavior that he can do. For example, if your preschool child is using potty words around other kids try saying “I don’t like those words. Choose another word.” Let her suggest words until you find some you agree on. (This can turn into a list of funny or nonsense words as well as useful vocabulary. Just make sure the new words are “keepers”.)

4. Before children are able to share easily, you can prepare them with this phrase: “Let’s trade.” Sharing is learned gradually: a child must first have the feeling of ownership. Let him choose two or three toys that are completely his; he doesn’t have to share them with anyone. Don’t bring these out for group play. The next step is trading toys in group play, where no one has to give away a precious toy without getting something in return. Trading leads to successful cooperative play like building together. The final step is spontaneous sharing, the beginning of altruism.

5. In a mom-approved place when your child is whiny or restless, you can say, “Let’s get our wiggles out.” This can help reset children AND parents. Even short periods of physical activity increase endorphins, and “feel good” hormones, and increased blood flow to the brain allows for the development of cognitive abilities such as focus.

6. Oddly enough, whining decreases when you respond quickly to what the child is saying. Then say, “Next time you can ask me in a normal voice.” Be prepared to respond quickly when she does use a normal voice! Some experts recommend ignoring whining as the best response. This works only after the child has learned to ask in a normal voice (as described above) but has slipped back into whining. It works best if you explain the consequence of whining (ignoring) and the consequence of using a normal voice (quick response).

These memorized phrases are only a few of many that can be used in different situations that happen repeatedly. Having them on the tip of your tongue allows you to act quickly but kindly, and clearly enough that your child understands what to do. Moms may soon be watching you, wondering “Why didn’t I think of that?”

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