When parents try to discipline their children or bring to their attention something that they have done wrong it is beneficial to use positive language, the most difficult to do so is when the child throws a tantrum. Today, I will be sharing some tips and statements that can be used as an alternative language but before sharing these tips with you, I would like to clarify that this needs time to sink in and for the parent it is not easy to practice such statements when you are almost on the verge of bursting, especially if your child is throwing a tantrum in a public place. Children test our limits when it comes to nerves but practicing some of these tips will hopefully lead to a more positive child-parent relationship and harmonious environment.
The following statements and ideas are some positive language alternatives when the child throws a tantrum:
Instead of saying… Alternative language/action
|How can I help you? If the child is feeling frustrated, anxious or nervous something must have happened to make him/her feel as such therefore, try to be present and offer your support. Ignoring the feeling of the child won’t make him/her feel calmer hence, be present.
|I can see this is hard for you. If something happened and my son/daughter feels like crying, I need to acknowledge that feeling and also empathise that this might feel hard for him/her. Even if the child is crying due to a consequence that you have given him/her for a wrong doing, acknowledge that feeling rather than asking them to stop crying.
|Please be gentle. Hitting will not get you anywhere neither you, as a parent, nor the child. Hence, educate your child to be gentle. Sometimes, children tend to hit when they are angry towards the parent or towards their siblings. Explain to the child that we don’t hit people. Furthermore, emphasise that this is not acceptable by adding, ‘Do you see me hitting people? Or have I ever hit you?’
|Be quiet/Stop yelling.
|Can you use a softer voice? /Take a deep breath, then tell me what happened. When we are talking to each other, being angry at each or disappointed we still need to be gentle and respect one another therefore, encouraging your child to use a softer/gentler voice can facilitate a conversation rather than get caught up in an argument or even worse shutting the other person down without letting him/her speak. Encourage the child to take a deep breath (to calm down) and also to speak about what has happened, what makes him/her disappointed or angry towards you or someone else. Though we might be right but we can still check what is happening and how this is affecting the child.
|Don’t get upset/That’s enough.
|It’s ok to feel sad/Do you need a hug? It’s important to let children become aware that in life, it’s ok to be sad sometimes because sometimes we cannot always be happy. It’s important to teach them to be realistic and express their emotions. If they feel like being upset, acknowledge their feeling and show them empathy. Ask them what they need or if they need a hug. I doesn’t mean that they need to feel good but they might feel better.
Apart from educating your child for his/her wrong doing or actions, using positive language when doing so is another way of bringing up children who are emotionally literate and also aware of their feelings and emotions.
Rachel Osmond is a Family Therapist with Willingness who works with individuals, couples and families. She also has experience with children and adolescents.