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“I do it myself!”
“I don’t want to!”
Are any of those familiar phrases you have heard in your home? I certainly have. Children will no doubt have times of refusing help, telling you know, an whining about a myriad of issues. Parents often find themselves wondering how to respond appropriately in those moments.
What no one seems to want to do is to lose it and begin yelling. Yelling seems to bring instant regret, and I see people all over the Internet looking for solutions on how to not yell.
One of my greatest tools is my list of phrases I turn to in those moments of frustration. I have these go-to responses for common things that come out of my kids’ mouths that I can find frustrating. Rather than responding in exasperation or anger, I respond matter-of-factly with the phrase. These phrases outline pre-established rules in our home, and my child understands that mom isn’t budging.
“I didn’t ask if you wanted to…”
How many times do you give your child an instruction and hear “I don’t want to!” in return?
“Time to clean up your toys!” “I don’t want to!“
“Time for nap!” “I don’t want to!“
“Time to eat dinner!” “I don’t want to!“
“Come here please!” “I don’t want to!“
“Go potty before we leave the house.” “I don’t want to!“
It is very easy to get frustrated with a child complaining that she doesn’t want to do something. My simple response to that is, “I didn’t ask if you wanted to.”
“I didn’t ask if you wanted to clean up your toys. I just said to clean them up.” Alternately, I might respond in the same situation, “I know you don’t want to, but you need to.”
“That is not a request.”
This phrase really conveys the same point as “I didn’t ask if you wanted to.” I tend to use it when the child is being more disobedient in actions and not just expressing likes and dislikes. I am typically more nonchalant with “I didn’t ask if you wanted to” and more firm with “That is not a request.“
“You don’t have the freedom to…”
I most commonly use this phrase when I get told flat out no. I can say any of the instructions I listed above and get told they don’t want to. If I get told no, I very firmly remind the child that “You don’t have the freedom to tell mommy no.” This can be used for a variety of purposes. Any time a child is trying to step out of boundaries and take more control than is appropriate for her, this is a great phrase to throw out there.
“Just sit and be bored.”
You know those times when your child is looking for something to do. It can be at home, in the car, or in a waiting room. You offer up a nice list of recommendations, only to be told how boring or unacceptable every idea is. My response to this is always, “Just sit and be bored then.”
Life is not always fun and entertaining. There are times we have to be able to entertain ourselves with only our thoughts. In those moments when my children are bored, I offer up ideas. I am, after all, the head teacher in their lives. I help them brainstorm and come up with possible solutions.
When the child decides to be difficult, I offer up the option to just be bored. That is always on the table. Boredom is okay and I do not mind if they go there. Sometimes life is boring.
I have been using this phrase longer than smartphones have been a thing, but in our current age of tablets and constant access to electronics, I find kids can easily complain of boredom until the electronic device is finally offered up. My children know I am okay with bored and that such complaints will not lead to my phone.
“Turn off Your Whiney Voice”
Oh the whining! It can really start to get to you like nails on a chalkboard. Common advice for whining is to simply ignore the child until she stops whining, but in practice, I haven’t found that terribly effective. One of my favorite ways to stop the whining is to simply instruct my child to “Turn off your whiney voice.” I don’t have to get mad and snap. My child doesn’t have to whine incessantly while I ignore her, hoping she will soon catch the hint that I am not responding because of the whining.
“What are you supposed to be doing?” or “Where are you supposed to be?”
You know when you send your child to do her chores and later find her doing cartwheels instead? “What are you supposed to be doing right now?” “Um, doing my chores.”
You don’t have to yell and carry on. You don’t have to lecture. You just have to ask your child. She knows. She will head on back to where she is supposed to be.
“It won’t hurt my feelings”
This is one of my favorites at the dinner table. When a certain child needs to finish her dinner if she wants any dessert, and she looks at me with those big doe-eyes hoping for a pardon, I respond, “It won’t hurt my feelings if you don’t get dessert tonight. It will hurt my feelings if you don’t get enough good nutrients and aren’t healthy, though.” She knows I am not budging, and she knows it is because I love her. She isn’t thrilled and kissing my cheek thanking me for sticking to my guns, but she does go back to eating without attitude nor complaint and ALWAYS gets it done in time for dessert.
These phrases can prevent you from jumping into needless lectures. They can help you say something without regretting it. They provide consistent ways to respond to common situations, allowing you to stay calm and in charge. They are phrases you can say anytime, anyplace. Is your child acting out in the grocery store? You use one of these phrases just like you would at home. You can correct the same way no matter where you are. They are quite handy!