Try this: Say “Billy wants to play with the truck, are you finished with it?” “No? Ok, then can you let him have a turn when you’re finished?” Compromise and creative problem-solving can also arise from disputes over toys. “Jamie wants to play with the dress-up cape, are you finished with it?” “No? Well, is there something else we can find that Jamie can use as a cape?”
2. Good job! and its opposite, Be careful! – as much as these phrases have been ingrained into our heads and just tumble out on their own most of the time, they really don’t mean much to children! If you can’t stop yourself from saying either phrase, at least follow it up with something more descriptive.
Try this: “Wow, look at that painting! There are so many colors! How did you make all those shapes?” “You’re on the edge of the bed, be careful so you don’t fall off.”
3. You shouldn’t feel that way – no one should ever be made to think their feelings are bad! A wide range of feelings is a normal part of being human and sometimes we may feel things that don’t make perfect sense. It’s our job to help children understand and explore feelings and find appropriate ways to deal with those feelings. Even if you see absolutely no reason why a child (or adult!) should feel sad or angry in a certain situation, please resist the impulse to say “well, there’s no reason to feel that way.” The fact of the matter is, they DO feel that way so let’s figure out how to move past it!
Try this: “It seems like something’s bothering you, do you want to tell me what it is?...it sounds like you feel sad. What do you think would help you feel better? Do you want to draw a picture/write a letter/snuggle…?”
4. Don’t say that/you don’t mean that/that’s not true – this one goes hand in hand with “you shouldn’t feel that way.” If a child says something, chances are they mean it and you never want them to hold back the truth because they think it will make you upset. They may not fully understand what they’re saying or use a phrase improperly, but in their own way, they mean it. And that means we’ll probably all hear “I don’t like you” at some point in our lives but that doesn’t mean we’re horrible parents whose children hate us! As hard as it is, try not to take what they say personally and stay calm. And though we can’t change what children say or stop them from saying specific words or phrases altogether, we can help them understand the effect their words have on others or that there are certain things we shouldn’t say around other people.
Try this: “Telling your sister you don’t like her hurt her feelings; instead why don’t you tell her why you’re upset with her.”
5. Don’t hit, kick, bite, throw… - in short, if children feel the need to hit, kick, bite or throw something, it’s near impossible to stifle that impulse. Whether they’re angry, teething or simply overflowing with energy, they can’t simply stop the action. Also, when you simply say “don’t throw” it gives the impression that throwing in general is not allowed. But I’m sure that’s not what you mean! You probably mean to say, don’t throw the ball inside the house or don’t throw toys at your brother. Explaining the specific activity that is inappropriate is the first step; the second is telling your child what he CAN do.
Try this: “You can’t kick your brother, that hurts him and we don’t hurt people. But you can kick this pillow or this ball.” “That big ball is an outside toy and we can’t play outside right now. But if you want something to throw, try these bean bags; here, see if you can throw them onto the couch/these paper plates.”