10 Phrases to Make a Better Parent

By Judy Arnall, author of Discipline without Distress, www.professionalparenting.ca

Many times as parents, we blurt out sayings that we heard as children and later vowed to never say to our own children. However, that is easier said than done. In times of stress, we revert very easily back to actions and phrases we saw and heard when we were parented.

Parenting skills are learned skills, and we can consciously effect change if we become aware of what needs to be changed. Here are 10 common parenting phrases and alternatives to nurture closer, caring, and more respectful relationships with our children.

INSTEAD OF: You are a bad boy.
TRY: What did you learn from this? What can you try next time?

INSTEAD OF: Hurry Up! We are late!
TRY: It’s okay. Take the time you need… (Next time, leave more time to get ready!)

INSTEAD OF: Oh no! Look at what you have done!
TRY: It really won’t matter five years from now! I will show you how to fix this.

INSTEAD OF: You need to…
TRY: I need you to…

INSTEAD OF: Because I said so!
TRY: I’ll explain my reasoning in five minutes when I’m not distracted so much.

INSTEAD OF: Stop that tantrum right now!
TRY: You feel frustrated and angry. Can I give you a hug?

TRY: I can see you really want that but I can’t provide it right now.

INSTEAD OF: You’ve wrecked my…
TRY: I’m really angry right now. I need to take a timeout.

INSTEAD OF: Stop doing that!
TRY: Would you consider this?

INSTEAD OF: Suck it up and stop crying.
TRY: It’s OK to cry and feel your feelings. Want a hug?

INSTEAD OF: Go play and leave me alone.
TRY: I love you!

Try any one of these substitutions today and you will see how much better your parent-child relationship will be. If you are not sure what to say and how to say it, especially in the moment, just offer a hug. You will be surprised how much body language can communicate empathy and affection, and then you can get on with solving the problem with your child.

7 thoughts on “10 Phrases to Make a Better Parent”

  1. I like the idea to just give a hug..

    I have a home daycare and am finding it difficult to deal with some of the behaviours the daycare kids are exhibiting… My kids feel my frustration and I sometimes expect more of them(mine were never big hitters, biters, or hair pullers, so I am frustrated when they retaliate)…

  2. This comes at a very appropriate time!

    Kid #2 is so diff from Kid #1 when it comes to learning. I need to use words like these when we study together!

    Thank you!

  3. linked your article to my blog. (will be published on tuesday)

    as i mentioned in my blog, if all else fails, a hug is the best option. works like a charm.

    even if my 3 kids have different personalities, giving them a hug after, makes it all better (tantrums, a fight or for bad behavior).


  4. Interesting, but some of the phrases used are quite long and also difficult to understand for young children. Maybe another list suitable for toddlers would be nice, which uses simpler words and shorter sentences ? Especially “I’ll explain my reasoning in five minutes when I’m not distracted so much” and “I can see you really want that but I can’t provide it right now” – I don’t think toddlers really understand sentences like those. Maybe “wait” and a simple word which indicates the reason for the “no” like “not for eating” or “careful” or “dirty” or “not for baby”

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