Mary Sheedy Kurcinka Ed.D and Lynn Jessen MA

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Category: Words to use in the Heat of the Moment


Words to Use When Your Child Refuses to Start a Task

“It’s time to do your work.” Whether it is time to begin schoolwork, practice an instrument, or simply play independently, these may be fighting words at your house. But they do not have to be. When “getting started,” is an on-going issue, you can utilize the problem-solving skills Lynn and I introduced previously.  

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Words to Use When Your Child is Feeling Anxious

How do you respond when your child refuses to go upstairs by himself, cries if you attempt to leave him before he’s asleep at bedtime, or doesn’t want to go to an activity you know he will love once he gets there? When a child is experiencing anxiety, he demonstrates it in his behavior. Often that behavior is a vehement protest, but sometimes, it is a complete “shut down,” in which he is incapable of doing things he could do just yesterday. No matter which response, it is tempting to simply avoid the difficult situation, but anxiety increases when situations are avoided. Instead, it is important to gently nudge your child forward, empowering and supporting him to take on this challenge. Your words and actions make a difference.

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Words to Use When Setting Limits

If a behavior is unsafe, hurtful, or disrespectful to self, others, or the environment, it’s time to step in and set a limit. A limit tells the child what needs to happen. Why it needs to happen. When it needs to happen and what you will do if it does not happen. A limit can be used to either stop or start a behavior. 

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Words to Use When You Want Your Child to Transition from One Activity, Thing or Place to Another

The day is full of transitions. A transition is defined as a shift or change from one place, thing, condition, or activity to another.  Whether it is getting dressed in the morning, turning off electronics, stopping play to come to eat, getting in or out of the car, or leaving a friend’s house your words can help your child shift smoothly – at least most of the time. WORDS TO USE TO SUCCESSFULLY TRANSITION 

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In the Heat of the Moment Instead of Saying That...Try Saying This...

Your response changes your child’s. A slight adjustment in your words and actions can make a huge difference in whether your child escalates or calms. For example, you are trying to make dinner when your child insists, she needs you to help her put a shirt on her bear. If you say, “You need to wait!”  Odds are your child will meltdown on the spot. But if instead you say, “I will help you. What would you like to do while you are waiting for me to finish this?” Your child may surprise you, at least for a few moments, by demonstrating patience you never realized she had. 

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