A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood

20 phrases to use when your child isn’t listening

Print Friendly and PDF

Our children are often the best mirrors. Over time, I have gracefully taken a step back and realized I needed to clean up my communication.

I replaced my judgmental, negative, threatening tone with a neutral, problem solving, empathetic, encouraging one (this took TONS of practice, and I'm still a work in progress) and my little girl's behavior improved dramatically.

The lesson was clear for me. Talk to mini-humans the way you'd like to be talked to and things will go a lot smoother. Easier said than done, so over the years, I've adopted the motto “Progress over perfection."

These 20 positive phrases are a great place to start if you'd like to make a fresh start with your communication:

1. “What do you need to remember?"

Take a break from: "Be careful."

Example: "What do you need to remember when you play at the park?" or "Please move slow like a careful turtle when walking on top of that wall."

Explained: Kids often ignore when we say this same thing again and again. Instead, engage their critical thinking skills and have them re-state the important precaution. Or give them specifics on what you want.

2. “Please talk softly."

Take a break from: "Stop yelling!" or "Be Quiet!"

Example: "Please talk softly or whisper," (said in a whisper voice) or, "I love your singing, AND I need you to outside or in the playroom to sing loud."

Explained: Some kids are naturally louder than others. If they have trouble speaking softly, show them where they can go to be loud and also use the power of the whisper. In combination with a gentle touch and eye contact, whispering is an incredibly effective way to get kids to listen.

3. “Would you like to do it on your own or have me help you?"

Take a break from: "I've asked you three times, do it now!"

Example: "It's time to leave. Would you like to put on your shoes by yourself, or have me help you?" or "Would you like to hop in your car seat by yourself or have me put you in it?"

Explained: Most kids respond incredibly well to being empowered. Give them a choice and their critical thinking skills override their temptation to push back.

4. “What did you learn from this mistake?"

Take a break from: "Shame on you" or "You should know better."

Example: "What did you learn from this mistake?" or "What did you learn and how will you do it differently next time, so you don't get in trouble at school?"

Explained: Focusing on motivation to change behavior for the future will get you much better results than placing shame on past misbehavior.

5. “Please ______________."

Take a break from: "Don't!" or "Stop It!"

Example: "Please pet the dog gently" or "Please put your shoes in the closet."

Explained: Do any of us go through our day telling waitresses, baristas, friends, etc. what we DON'T want? No, right? We wouldn't get the best response if we said "Do NOT give us a whole milk latte" or "I don't want the chicken." That form of negative communication isn't perceived well and puts undue strain on relationships. Instead, try asking for what you do want.

6. “We are on cheetah time today and need to move fast!"

Take a break from: "Hurry Up!" or "We are going to be late!"

Example: "We're on racehorse time today! Let's see how fast we can move!"

Explained: Be sure to let them be on turtle time sometimes! We could all use a healthy dose of slowing down, so provide mornings where everyone is relaxed & kids can move slow.

7. “Do you want to leave now or in ten minutes?"

Take a break from: "Time to go…now!"

Example: "Do you guys wanna leave now or play for ten more minutes, then leave?

Why it works: Kids love to be in charge of their own destiny, especially power kids! This takes a tad bit of proactivity, but it works like a charm! Give them a choice & they'll respond much better when you say "Okay, 10 minutes is up, time to go."

8. “Let's add that toy you want to your birthday list."

Take a break from: "We can't afford that" or "No, I said NO TOYS!"

Example: "I am not willing to buy that, would you like me to put it on your birthday wish list?"

Explained: If we're being honest, we often CAN afford the $5 lego at checkout, we're just not willing to purchase it. But then buy a $5 almond milk latte from Starbucks. Instead of blaming our finances and creating feelings of scarcity, own your limit, then offer ideas to help them learn how to get it (birthday, earning money, etc.).

9. “Stop, breathe, now ask for what you want."

Take a break from: "Stop whining!"

Example: "Let's stop, breathe together, now try again to ask for what you want."

Explained: Be sure to model this too. Keep repeating it calmly while breathing with them, till they can self-calm and change the way they're talking.

10. “Respect yourself and others."

Take a break from: "Be good."

Example: "Remember to respect yourself and others when you're inside the jumpy today."

Explained: Be specific here as kids often don't absorb the general statements we throw at them. Ask for what you want and have them restate what is important to remember.

11. “Use your teamwork skills."

Take a break from: "Don't be bossy!" and "No one will want to play with you if you act like that."

Example: "You're a great leader. Remember to use your teamwork skills today. Ask your friends questions, instead of telling them what to do and let others have a turn leading too."

Explained: Many kids who have a strong desire to lead (or feel powerful) are often told they're bossy or that no one will want to be their friends if they act mean. Instead, become a coach of your child and teach them how good leaders lead with integrity—asking instead of commanding, showing instead of telling, and taking turns, so everyone has a turn to lead AND also rest, etc.

12. “I need you to _____________."

Take a break from: "Stop doing ___," and "It's not ok to ___."

Example: "I need you to pet the dog gently, he loves calming pets and will sit with you longer if you touch him that way.

"I need you to slow down and walk like a turtle right now instead of a racehorse since we're in a dangerous parking lot."

Explained: I statements come across very different than you statements, and kids respond much better when we communicate with them in non-accusatory ways. Also, asking for what you want is huge to guide kids in the direction you want (vs. focusing their brain on what you DON'T want!)

13. “It's okay to cry."

Take a break from: "Don't be a baby," or "Don't Cry."

Example: "It's ok that you feel sad, I'll be over here if you need me. I know you can find a way to take care of yourself."

Explained: It's incredible how well kids respond when we don't pressure them to "get over their feelings" or try to force them to stop freaking out. Empower and teach them they are capable of moving through the feeling on their own and they'll come out of the sadness sooner—and also build their self-esteem.

14. “How will you take care of yourself?"

Take a break from: Always fixing, i.e., "Do __________, and you'll be fine, it's not a big deal," or "Why are you always so emotional? Here, a cookie will make you feel better."

Example: "It's ok to be ____________. What are some things you can do to help yourself feel better?"

Explained: Empowering kids to take care of themselves is an incredible gift! Kids who learn to move through emotions with integrity, and take self-calming action get into trouble less and have higher self-esteem. (Be sure you are learning through positive parenting curriculum like The Foundations Course how to support them in this journey to develop intrinsic care, self-control methods and how to self-calm.)

15. “I'll stop, breathe and wait for you to finish."

Take a break from: "Just let me do it."

Example: "Looks like you need a moment, I'll sit down and wait for two minutes or put the dishes in the dishwasher while I wait."

Explained: Many times, it's us parents that need to chill. Slow down and let them try to tie their shoe themselves or figure out the elevator floor by reading the sign. Kids often do a great job of reminding us to be present. Be ok with a lumpy bed sometimes, or shoes on the wrong foot. The goal here is to let kids try, fail, try again and anchor feelings of capability—so they don't always depend on us to do everything!

16. “I love you no matter what."

Take a break from: "No one wants to be with you when you're bad," or "You're not getting hugs and kisses after acting like that."

Example: "I love you no matter what behavior you have, AND I'd like you to ask your brother for the toy next time, instead of grabbing it."

Explained: Unconditional love is at the core of Positive Parenting and means that our love for our kids does not depend on the level of good behavior they have in the day. We love them with all of our heart no matter what. Feeding this truth into our children pours into their need to belong, which is a key motivating factor that Dr. Rudolph Dreikurs (grandfather of Positive Parenting) helps us understand. When kids' basic needs are met, they misbehave less.

17. “I am not ok with ___________—yet."

Take a break from: "You're not old enough," or "You're too little to do that."

Example: "I'm not ok with you walking on top of that brick wall because I'm scared you'll fall and hurt yourself."

Explained: When we own our fears and worries, our kids respond and respect our limits a lot better. Kids often feel like they are old enough, strong enough, big enough and capable enough to do big things like ride bikes fast, climb high fences and carry big glasses of juice…but it's us that isn't ready to take the risk yet. Communicate this to your kids using the word I, and they will push back less.

18. “You care, so I'd love for you to decide."

Take a break from: "I don't care."

Example: "You know what? I'm flexible on this, so can you choose for us. I'd love your help."

Explained: When we really don't care, this is a great opportunity to empower our kids and let them lead! Good leaders are also good followers so teaching our kids this through letting them make decisions is good practice.

19. “I believe in you and am here to support you."

Take a break from: Rescuing, i.e., "I'll take care of this." or "Why do I have to do everything for you?"

Example: "I can see how this is tough for you and I believe in you to get through this. I am here to support you if you need ideas on how to handle the situation with integrity."

Explained: It's important that as parents we set our kids up for success in the world to take care of themselves, solve their own problems and have confidence that they are capable. Supporting instead of rescuing often takes more patience, but it builds kids' self-esteem and intrinsic motivation in the most beautiful ways!

20. “How are you feeling?"

Take a break from: "Chill out; you don't need to get so upset!"

Example: "I can see you're upset, what are you feeling?"

Explained: Helping kids identify their emotions and communicate them effectively is an important element of positive parenting. When children get comfortable actually feeling an emotion and communicating it to others (instead of denying it and trying to MAKE it go away), behaviors have a tendency to be much cleaner and respectful.


Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

Subscribe to get inspiration and super helpful ideas to rock your #momlife. Motherhood looks amazing on you.

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

If there's one thing you learn as a new mama, it's that routine is your friend. Routine keeps your world spinning, even when you're trucking along on less than four hours of sleep. Routine fends off tantrums by making sure bellies are always full and errands aren't run when everyone's patience is wearing thin. And routine means naps are taken when they're supposed to, helping everyone get through the day with needed breaks.

The only problem? Life doesn't always go perfectly with the routine. When my daughter was born, I realized quickly that, while her naps were the key to a successful (and nearly tear-free!) day, living my life according to her nap schedule wasn't always possible. There were groceries to fetch, dry cleaning to pick up, and―if I wanted to maintain any kind of social life―lunch dates with friends to enjoy.

Which is why the Ergobaby Metro Compact City Stroller was such a life-saver. While I loved that it was just 14 pounds (perfect for hoisting up the stairs to the subway or in the park) and folds down small enough to fit in an airplane overhead compartment (you know, when I'm brave enough to travel again!), the real genius of this pint-sized powerhouse is that it doesn't skimp on comfort.

Nearly every surface your baby touches is padded with plush cushions to provide side and lumbar support to everything from their sweet head to their tiny tush―it has 40% more padding than other compact strollers. When nap time rolls around, I could simply switch the seat to its reclined position with an adjustable leg rest to create an instant cozy nest for my little one.

There's even a large UV 50 sun canopy to throw a little shade on those sleepy eyes. And my baby wasn't the only one benefiting from the comfortable design― the Metro is the only stroller certified "back healthy" by the AGR of Germany, meaning mamas get a much-needed break too.

I also appreciate how the Metro fits comfortably into my life. The sleek profile fits through narrow store aisles as easily as it slides up to a table when I'm able to meet a pal for brunch. Plus, the spring suspension means the tires absorb any bumps along our way―helping baby stay asleep no matter where life takes us. When it's time to take my daughter out, it folds easily with one hand and has an ergonomic carry handle to travel anywhere we want to go.

Life will probably never be as predictable as I'd like, but at least with our Metro stroller, I know my child will be cradled with care no matter what crosses our path.

This article is sponsored by Ergobaby. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Shop

After quite a wait (he was born last week) Kim Kardashian and Kanye West have finally revealed their baby boy’s name and it isn’t what the internet was expecting.

While Kim had previously hinted at the name Robert, after her late father and her brother, the couple went with a name that makes sense given Kanye’s new Sunday Services.

Baby number four for the Kardashian-Wests is called Psalm West, his mom announced via Instagram.

Psalm is the fourth child for Kim and Kanye, who are already raising 5-year-old North, 3-year-old Saint and 1-year-old Chicago.

Welcome to the family Psalm!

You might also like:

News

Back in the day, when I saw my mom sporting a fanny pack, I cringed. I was a tween, and my mom was utterly embarrassing with her nylon belt bag. Flash forward a couple of decades and as I juggle four kids at a playground while my tote keeps slipping off my shoulder, I find myself thinking, "Maybe, just maybe, my mom was onto something."

And I'm not the only one. That's right friends, fanny packs are BACK. Why? Well, for celebs and fashion-types, it's because everything that was once old must always be reincarnated.

But for us mamas, there is one simple resounding answer: The bag is incredibly convenient. It allows us to have our hands free—to, ya know, change a diaper or put a bandage on a knee—and it also forces us to pare down the litany of items we'll throw into our purses before we head out the door. Like, those ten extra snacks or a juice box or a coloring book — the items that result in your purse suddenly weighing 50 pounds.

Oh, and this just in: You can also sling a fanny pack around your body, now. We've got options!

Is it the ultimate mom bag? Listen, we're not going to say it is. But we're also not going to say it's not. Catch our drift? And if you see yourself in a mirror while sporting your new belt bag, we dare you not to start singing, "I'm too sexy for… my fanny pack."

FEATURED VIDEO

Shop our favorite patterns and styles below, some of which start as low as 6 bucks.

Dagne Dover Ace Fanny Pack, $85.00

Dagne Dover Ace Fanny Pack

This just in: We all need more neoprene in our lives! We're loving the yellow lace design detail, and the fact that this one has a key clip and card holder inside, too.

SHOP

Pam & Gela Leopard Print Belt Bag, $105.00

Pam & Gela Leopard Print Belt Bag

We're just going to say it: One can never have too much leopard in their closet. This one will definitely spice up your daily jeans and t-shirt outfit.

SHOP

Herschel Supply Co. Fifteen Belt Bag, $30.00

Herschel Supply Co. Fifteen Belt Bag

Durable? Check. Fun colors? Check. Cute Herschel logo badge on the front? Check.

SHOP

Lululemon Everywhere Belt Bag 1L, $38.00

Lululemon Everywhere Belt Bag 1L


Yes, you need a sporty fanny pack, too. This one is perfect when you're heading to Saturday morning yoga.

SHOP

Sun Squad Cooler Fanny Pack, $6.00

Sun Squad Fanny Pack Cooler Grapefruit

A insulated fanny pack that keeps snacks cool? Amen!

SHOP

State Crosby Fanny Pack, $42.00

State Crosby Fanny Pack

Proof that fanny packs can be uber-hip (and sleek!) at the same time.

SHOP

No Boundaries Fanny Pack, $5.97

No Boundaries Fanny Pack

This sweet-pea pattern screams, "Spring!" and at this price, we might buy two.

SHOP

Lola Los Angeles Moonbeam Belt Bag, $28.00

Lola Los Angeles Moonbeam

We're loving the nylon fabric and cool Lola badge on this one, which also comes in black, red and maroon.

SHOP

Tee Shirt and Jeans Janie Fanny Pack, $11.99

Tee Shirt and Jeans Janie Fanny Pack

This one had us at pompoms. Oh, and that price. Sold!

SHOP

MZ Wallace Metro Belt Bag, $145.00

MZ Wallace Metro Belt Bag

Moms everywhere love MZ Wallace for their crazy parenting-friendly totes, and turns out they make an equally utilitarian belt bag in a variety of fun hues and patterns.

SHOP

Gucci Ophidia Small Suede Belt Bag, $1,390.00

What's that? You only wear designer bags? Fear not, they've adapted to the fanny pack trend (except they refer to the style as a "belt bag,") and this Gucci stunner will transition seamlessly from the park to date night.

SHOP

Clare V. Perforated Leather Fanny Pack, $299.00

Clare V. Perforated Leather Fanny Pack

The epitome of cool-girl bag brands, Clare V. has brought its chic aesthetic to the fanny pack category, and we couldn't be happier about that. We adore the perforated leather of this bag, as well as the high-contrast zipper.

SHOP

Jansport Fifth Avenue Fanny Pack, $17.00

Jansport Fifth Avenue Fanny Pack

If we're going to go the fanny pack route, we might as well go the whole way, right? Right. And nothing screams "90s!" like a Jansport bag. The good news is they haven't raised their prices too much in the past two decades.

SHOP

Nike Benassi Just Do It Fanny Pack Slide Sandal, $50.00

Nike Benassi Just Do It Fanny Pack Slide Sandal

Okay, okay, this isn't a true fanny pack per se. It's better! It's actually two amazing '90s trends packed into one perfect product. We give you... the fanny pack slide!

SHOP

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

You might also like:

Shop

Mornings can be so rough making sure everyone has what they need for the day and managing to get out the door on time. A recent survey by Indeed found that 60% of new moms say managing a morning routine is a significant challenge, and another new survey reveals just why that is.

The survey, by snack brand Nutri-Grain, suggests that all the various tasks and child herding parents take on when getting the family out the door in the morning adds up to basically an extra workday every week!

Many parents will tell you that it can take a couple of hours to get out of the house each morning person, and as the survey found, most of us need to remind the kids "at least twice in the morning to get dressed, brush their teeth, or put on their shoes."

According to Nutri-Grain, by the end of the school year, the average parent will have asked their children to hurry up almost 540 times across the weekday mornings.

We totally get it. It's hard to wait on little ones when we have a very grown-up schedule to get on with, but maybe the world needs to realize that kids just aren't made to be fast.

FEATURED VIDEO

As Rachel Macy Stafford, the author of Hands Free Mama, Hands Free Life, writes, having a child who wants to enjoy and marvel at the world while mama is trying to rush through it is hard.

"Whenever my child caused me to deviate from my master schedule, I thought to myself, 'We don't have time for this.' Consequently, the two words I most commonly spoke to my little lover of life were: 'Hurry up.'" she explains.

We're always telling our kids to hurry up, but maybe, maybe, we should be telling ourselves—and society—to slow down.

That's what Stafford did. She took "hurry up" out of her vocabulary and in doing so made that extra workday worth of time into quality time with her daughter, instead of crunch time. She worked on her patience, and let her daughter marvel at the world or slow down when she had to.

"To help us both, I began giving her a little more time to prepare if we had to go somewhere. And sometimes, even then, we were still late. Those were the times I assured myself that I will be late only for a few years, if that, while she is young."

It's great advice, but unless we mamas can get the wider world on board, it's hard to put into practice. When the school bus comes at 7:30 am and you've gotta be at the office at 8 am, when the emails start coming before you're out of bed or your pay gets docked if you punch in five minutes late, it is hard to slow down.

So to those who are making the schedules the rest of us have to live by, to the employers and the school boards and the wider culture, we ask: Can we slow down?

Indeed's survey suggests that the majority of moms would benefit from a more flexible start time at work and the CDC suggests that starting school later would help students.

Mornings are tough for parents, but they don't have to be as hard as they are.

You might also like:

News

If you've ever shopped at Vineyard Vines you know two things. One, it's simply adorable. Like, the stuff that Nantucket dreams are made of. Stripes, checks, plaids and pinstripes in soft pastel hues for the entire family. Even the dog.

And second, you know that in order to achieve such a crisp, cool East Coast vibe that will look oh-so-perfect in your professionally-shot family photo you'll have to pay. Nope, that wee whale logo is not cheap, folks. How much are we talking? In the range of $50 for a boys button-down shirt or $70 for a girls madras dress (to be fair, it does have flutter sleeves and holy cannoli it might just be worth the price tag!). The good news is that we can verify the quality is top notch—my two sons regularly receive my nephews' hand me downs and even after being worn by four boys, they're still in top-notch condition.

Needless to say, for those of us with a penchant for prep on a tighter clothing budget, the news of Target's Vineyard Vines collaboration was music to our ears. We've actually tried the product and we're drooling... over the styles, the quality and the prices! Comprised of more than 300 pieces, the collection is priced from $2 to $120, with most of it costing below $35.

FEATURED VIDEO

Let's say it together, friends: Yassss!

Check out our favorite pieces for the whole family below.

Vineyard Vines for Target Women's Sleeveless Ruffle Tie Waisted Midi V-Neck Dress

Price: $35

BUY

Vineyard Vines for Target Baby Ruffle School of Whales Sleeveless Bodysuit

Vineyard Vines for Target Baby Ruffle School of Whales Sleeveless Bodysuit

Price: $12

BUY

Vineyard Vines for Target  Boys' Short Sleeve Polo Shirt

Vineyard Vines for Target  Boys' Short Sleeve Polo Shirt

Price: $16

BUY

Vineyard Vines for Target Men's Striped Swim Trunks

Vineyard Vines for Target Men's Striped Swim Trunks

Price: $25

BUY

Vineyard Vines for Target Girls' Striped Scoop Neck Romper

Vineyard Vines for Target Girls' Striped Scoop Neck Romper

Price: $20

BUY

Vineyard Vines for Target Toddler Boys' 1/4 Zip Pullover Sweatshirt

Vineyard Vines for Target Toddler Boys' 1/4 Zip Pullover Sweatshirt

Price: $16

BUY

Vineyard Vines for Target Women's Blue One-Piece Swimsuit

Vineyard Vines for Target Women's Blue One-Piece Swimsuit

Price:$35

BUY

Vineyard Vines for Target Women's Women's Gingham Long Sleeve Shirtdress

Vineyard Vines for Target Women's Women's Gingham Long Sleeve Shirtdress

Price: $35

BUY

Vineyard Vines for Target Throw Blankets & Pillows

Vineyard Vines for Target Throw Blankets & Pillows

Price: $25-$30

BUY

Vineyard Vines for Target Pet Accessories

Vineyard Vines for Target Pet Accessories

Price: $6-$11

BUY

Shop
Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.