Katie’s “The Best Way to Struggle” post got me thinking about discipline responses and how the words we choose when interacting with our kids can help us to “struggle together” or “struggle against” our child. I think responses that help us “struggle together” towards success have some common elements.
- They are focused on the present and future.
- They are stated as positively as possible
- They include some action (big or small) on the parent’s part.
Here’s one example:
“You never pick up your clothes! Every day the pile gets higher!” (Focuses on the past and = struggling against your child.)
“Your room is a mess.” (Focuses on the present and might be true, but isn’t very positive, doesn’t look to the future, and lacks action.)
“Let’s get started on cleaning up your room. We are both going to feel better when it is done.” (Focuses on the present and future, and is positively stated. This one for me = joining the struggle with my child to help them succeed.)
“Isn’t your homework done yet? What on earth have you been doing?” (past and negative)
“You are still working on your homework?!” (present and negative)
“You’re not as far along as I thought you’d be. Let’s move to the kitchen with that so I can help you get back on track while I make dinner.” (This one is focused on present and future, is positively stated and includes an action.)
and one more…
“You have been whining all day!” (past and negative)
“Stop whining!” (present and negative—This one also sets up a power struggle because we really can not make a child stop whining.)
“You are having a rough day! Come walk close to me so I can help you. “ (present and future focused, positive and includes action)
I’m trying this myself and have to say it’s a challenge (at least for me) to stay out of the past! Give it a try yourself during your parenting interactions today. Listen to yourself as you interact with your child. Do the words you choose help to create a spirit of “we’re in this together” or do they encourage more of a “it’s me against you” feeling?