• 9 Practical Phrases to Do Positive Parenting Every Day

    Parenting experts show how simple words can help you be a better parent and raise a good child
    by Jillianne E. Castillo .
9 Practical Phrases to Do Positive Parenting Every Day
PHOTO BY iStock
  • Words hold power and even short sentences can convey a lot of meaning. Simple phrases, when said from the heart and expressed with sincerity, can already make a big difference, even when it comes to parenting. Here are a few to start using today as advised by parenting experts. 

    (Tip: You can learn more about each parenting phrase by clicking the hyperlink in each item.)

    1. “You really worked hard”

    There’s a simple strategy that will help your child excel and be successful later in life. How? Praise effort (“You studied really well for that test!”) and not talent (You’re so smart!), says world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck, Ph.D

    This practice cultivates a “growth mindset” where children learn that, even if they fail, they can do better with determination and hard work. It teaches them that being smart or good at math is not something that’s innate, but a skill that needs to be earned.  

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    2. “How do you want to say sorry?”
    Parenting experts advise against forcing a child to say sorry. It teaches “all the wrong lessons,” says child psychologist Dr. Laura Markham. When a child is “forced to apologize before he or she is ready, it doesn't help repair the relationship at all,” she says. Instead of teaching your child a valuable lesson, the issue turns into a struggle of getting your child to apologize. 

    Here’s what to do: let your child cool down and explain what happened and why there needs to be an apology. Then, empower your child to make amends in a way that’s comfortable for him. Suggest ways he can say sorry, like giving a hug, writing a short note or sharing a toy.  

    3. “I know you're feeling (insert emotion)”

    Often, experts’ first advice to parents on how to deal with a child’s tantrums and meltdowns is to acknowledge and describe the child’s feelings. There are two reasons for this. First, your child needs to know you understand that he’s upset. Showing empathy is sometimes all you need to stop the crying (“I know you’re sad that we have to leave the playground already, but it’s getting dark already.”) 

    Second, putting a label on emotions will build your child’s self-control and help lessen tantrums in the future. It’s a good way to get your little one to stop hitting you when he’s mad as well. For example, you can say, “I can see you’re mad. But when you hit, it hurts mom. You can stomp your feet and say you’re mad – no punching and kicking.”  

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    4. “Okay, ano mas gusto mo, ito or ito?”
    A good trick to get your matigas ang ulo child to do as you say is to provide her with choices. If your child doesn't want to get dressed, for example, bring out two outfits and say something like, “Do you want to wear the shirt with the bear or the one with airplanes?” Giving your child opportunities to make decisions and practice her independence can lessen defiance.  

    5. “You’ll remember next time.” 
    After giving your child a discipline lesson, like how he shouldn’t grab toys from a playmate, don’t forget to tell your child this short phrase. “We have to teach [children] that they can change their behavior, that they can grow,” says child developmental psychologist Ashley Soderlund. The phrase also empowers your child and encourages good behavior in the long run. When you say those words, you are also telling him or her, “Yes, mom or dad knows you can do better.”  

    6. “Show me.”
    A 2-year-old may not have the words yet to tell you what’s bothering him or what he wants, so he freaks out to release his frustration instead, said pediatrician Dr. Jay Hoecker. This simple phrase may be all you need to deal with a crying toddler. It could just be that toy on the bookshelf that he can’t reach. 

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    7. “Is it true?”
    Negative thoughts plague both adults and children. For example, imagine a playmate has told your child that nobody likes him. The comment leaves him in tears. Your response can be, “Is it true?” says child psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Amen, author of Captain Snout and the Super Power Questions, to Fatherly. The phrase will remind your child that a lot of people love being with him including mom and dad, his cousins, and other playmates. It can instantly make him feel better. 

    The phrase is short and simple, but it helps your child deal with harmful thoughts and difficult feelings, like anger and sadness. “Those three words are so stinking powerful,” says Dr. Amen. 

    8. “Sit down” or other short but specific instruction
    If your child is jumping on his chair, for example, say something like, “Sit down. You might fall and bump your head” instead of snapping at your child with a “No!” or “Stop!” Specific instructions tell your child what behavior is expected of him and prevent misbehavior in the future.

    Show your child that there are well-defined boundaries. This way, she learns to self-regulate and respect limits, says Hal Runkel, family therapist and author of ScreamFree Parenting

    9. “I’m sorry” 
    “Parents’ ability to acknowledge mistakes and accept responsibility for actions is imperative in helping their children to do the same,” said Kate Roberts, Ph.D., a consulting school psychologist and former professor of psychiatry at Brown University. It role models many important lessons including accountability. “They are demonstrating that taking action to accept responsibility for a mistake is more important than the mistake itself,” said Roberts. 

    Yes, it can be difficult. It feels like a sign of weakness, and parents sometimes fear that apologizing will lessen the child’s respect for mom or dad. According to Dr. Laura Markham, that isn’t at all the case. “[Your child] still knows who’s boss.”

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