We all need simple responses to the everyday questions and
comments from our children. Quick things we can say to
minimize our frustration while simultaneously validating their
experience. Below are five responses that work well in our
1. I hear you.
All people just want to be heard. They don't always need to be "right" or "win", they just want someone to validate their belief system so they know that what they say matters. Even when my girls are arguing with me about going to bed or watching another show, I can say, I hear you, and I understand what you want to do, but it's time for bed. I have no desire to engage in an argument, and I don't plan on compromising our house rules, but I do want to acknowledge their words.
2. How does that make you feel?
Yes, the typical therapist response, but hey, it's helpful. When the girls get their feelings hurt or when they do something they are proud of, it's important for them to be conscious of how they feel and know how to label it (sad, happy, frustrated, worried). Feelings comprehension and self expression are the keys to asking for what they need, letting go of what they don't need, and fully embracing who they are.
3. How can I help you?
When my girls come to me with a problem, a frustration, or even when they are hungry, this is my first question. Instead of asking a million questions and doing the problem solving, I let them tell me what they need. Very often they don't really need help; they just want to share their experience.
4. Trust your body - it's smart and it knows what to do.
I say this when the girls are tired; when they want to play outside, but their body is saying rest. When they cut themselves and they are afraid of the blood, or when they are sick and they are afraid to throw up. Instead of feeling fear, I want them to trust that the body knows how to heal and it has the natural smarts to get well again (and they can sleep, take baths, or in some cases use medicine to stay comfortable and assist the process).
5. What do you think?
The girls seek my opinion about homework, what to wear, and what to do when they are bored. Of course I have an opinion, but their opinion is just as valuable. I don't want to solve their problems; I want to teach them to solve their own problems. I don't want to tell them who to be; I want them to figure out who they are. It takes practice to think for yourself, and these are practical opportunities for learning.
Do you have any positive and useful responses? Feel free to share.
Cathy Adams is a certified parenting coach, yoga instructor and mother to three girls.
See more of Cathy's stories here.