“At the same time”
Using the word “but” can complicate already tense conversations. Often seen as negating whatever came before, it can create confusion and hurt feelings. The phrase, “I love you, but…” or “I’m sorry, but…” comes off as “I love you, but not enough,” or “I’m sorry, but not really.”
Instead, use the phrase, “at the same time”. This phrase validates both what comes before and after as coexisting.
“I love you. At the same time, I can’t let you hurt other people. “I’m sorry you’re upset. At the same time, running away isn’t safe.”
“What do you think you could do”
As experienced problem-solvers ourselves, it can be tempting to swoop right in and fix every problem. But it’s important that we give kids ownership of and practice with the problem-solving process.
“What do you think you could do to help your sister feel better?” “What do you think you could do to make things right with your friend?” “What do you think you could do to make sure everyone gets a turn?” “What do you think you could do to take care of this spill?”
Notice that children are not only invited to come up with a proposed solution, but to own it. “What do YOU think YOU could do…”
“What I know is”
There are times when our kids tell us things we KNOW are not true. But when we jump to, “That’s a lie!” they typically shut down or become defensive.
Whether it’s lying, magical thinking, or a complete misunderstanding, we can avoid an argument or an overreaction by calmly starting with what we know.
“What I know is that there were four cookies on the plate when I left.” “What I know is that toys can’t move by themselves.” “What I know is that Jesse’s mom wasn’t home today.”
Kids aren’t always the ones making the mistakes in these difficult situations. Sometimes our imperfections are the best starting point for important learning opportunities.
When we apologise for our shortcomings, we model how to make appropriate apologies, but also teach our children that we all make mistakes. When they see us acknowledge and apologize, they learn that they can do the same. Additionally, when we repair our relationships, we make them stronger.
Along with all the hard situations, we have to acknowledge the great ones (or even a great sliver of a really hard day). Just like we want to know our hard work is appreciated every day, our children want to know that their effort is noticed as well.
“Thank you for packing your lunch this morning.” “Thank you for being such a respectful listener.” “Thank you for helping your sister.” Even, “Thank you for doing your jobs. I know you wanted to do other things first. (Unspoken: Because you threw a big fit beforehand.) I really appreciate you doing it even though it was hard.”