Use “I statements” instead of “you statements”:
Oneof my favorite books on parenting talks about a “Confrontational I-statement”, or learning how to let a person know that you have an issue with them.
“Confrontational I-statements have three parts. The three parts communicates your FEELING, (how the behaviour is making you feel) and the specific BEHAVIOUR/PROBLEM (a specific non-blameful description) and the REASON (tangible effect on you) to the child.”
Taken from “Dicipline without Distress” by Judy Arnall
(Instead of “Why are you always messing up the kitchen! It’s like you want to make my life more difficult!”)
“I feel frustrated when I hear siblings bickering, and I can’t concentrate on my work”
(Instead of “You guys have got to stop fighting! It’s driving me crazy!”)
I –statements are great because they tend to not put people on the defensive, compared to a “you” message such as “You should…” “You did this…” “You are…”
When I first heard of the idea of redirection, I thought it meant trying to distract your child, the equivalent of pointing behind them and saying “look at the birdie!” In reality, redirection is explaining to your child what TO do instead of what NOT to do. I’ve found there is usually a big difference between saying “No! You can’t do that!” and saying “You may not do x, but you can do y.” Or spotting a downward spiral before it happens and suggesting a new activity or project. Sometimes redirection (especially for small children) means physically removing them from the troublesome situation to do something else.
“If the feeling is a wrong guess, don’t worry about it. Most children will be happy to correct you or confirm that you are on the right track. The main point is that you are making a genuine effort to understand how they are feeling and they will pick it up. ….
Many parenting may protest: but how does that solve the problem? Many parents want to jump in too soon to solve the problem, and often the child doesn’t want the parents interfering. They want to solve their own problems, they just want a sounding board to vent. You could ask them if they want help to solve the problem. They will tell you. Once a problem is clarified in the child’s mind they can usually figure out their own solutions.”
Me: “Did you leave the sink running? Please go turn it off. “
Me: “Because it wastes water when you leave it on and we have to pay for it.”
4 year old: “Why?”
4 year old: “Why?”
4 year old: “Because water could fill up the whole sink, and then splash onto the floor.”
4 year old: Runs laughing to go shut off the water.
I struggle with an inclination to say no to flippantly, and simultaneously feel guilty over refusing my kids something. While it is important to have an actual reason for saying no, and to have thought it through (because saying it too often makes it lose it’s power) it can actually be good for kids to know that the game isn’t going to change up all the time. If you have a reason for saying no, and you’ve thought it through, don’t feel guilty. You can stick with it and kids learn consistency and the fact that some things really aren’t OK.