It’s incredible to observe how our parenting and discipline methods have changed over each generation. “Children should be seen and not heard,” doesn’t seem to be the mantra of many families we work with these days. With good reason too: this type of mindset grows children into adults who recoil from expressing their emotions, and instead harbor and process them alone, if at all.
It seems that broadly speaking, we have come a long way and now encourage children to respectfully share their emotions without fear of repercussions. Though sometimes this can lead to children going too far the other direction, shouting their desires and having major tantrums when they don’t get what they want.
So where is the balance between silent inner turmoil, and an all-out meltdown? Finding it can be the difference between inner chaos and outward peace in your family. Here are a few phrases you can incorporate into your lexicon today!
1. “Tell me more about that.”
We use this phrase mostly when children are beginning to open up but have hit a wall. Perhaps they feel that they’ve said enough, or they don’t know if they’re allowed to, or should, say more. This phrase shows them that I am interested and attentive, and encourages them to speak their minds.
2. “It sounds like you worked really hard/really enjoyed that, right?”
Affirmation! When we echo our impressions of their feelings, they tend to either clarify or expand. It’s wonderful to hear, “Yeah, I did!! And I even tried to…” This only strengthens our bond and their trust in us as their caregiver.
3. “I noticed/heard/believe…”
This may be taken two ways: when noticing their actions, or when noticing something in the environment that you want to share with them. Once, with a 6-year-old girl I was taking care of, I said, “I noticed that you’ve been drawing a lot lately. Would you like it if we went somewhere new together and drew what we will see?” This elated her. The thought that I saw something she was doing and was interested in drawing too clearly meant a lot to her — our little outing was all she talked about for the next week.
4. “I hear you.”
This one is a killer! It’s extremely handy to keep in your back pocket for when you experience the Broken Record Syndrome (that’s got to be a clinical condition by now, right?). When children repeat themselves over and over, they are typically wanting attention rather than solutions. This frees you up because if you were able to provide the solution, they likely would get what they need and wouldn’t need to keep carrying on. This phrase comes in handy for, “Yeah, but I just want to,” or for when you’re out and about, on your way home, and the snack has already been eaten and, “I’m hungry,” keeps persisting. Of course, you wouldn’t scold your child for having hunger; scolding them for expressing it is counterproductive. “I hear you,” acknowledges and accepts, and isn’t shaming, angry, frustrated, irritated, or mocking.
5. “Do you remember when I said/what I said about…”
This one is a slightly more respectful way of asking for recall, rather than exploding, “Did you hear what I said?!” Remember, if we want children to be respectful, we must model it first. I like to use this when I’ve already given an answer and I don’t want to lecture or nag. In my experience, I haven’t had much luck with getting children to follow along with what I need them to do if I’m just saying it over and over with annoyance in my voice.
In summary, childcare can have moments of frustration and miscommunication, but as caregivers, we can take the time and energy to show our charges that we’re listening, and we care so deeply about their needs and desires. These phrases are just the beginning of respectfully interacting with your nanny kids and showing them the kindness we hope to see them model. For more information about respectful caregiving, check out our educational Facebook group, Summit Sessions where we spoke with a Respectful Caregiving expert!
We’d love to hear about the ways that you’ve worked on respectful caregiving and building a rapport with your charges – reach out to us on Facebook, Instagram, and check out the other posts on the blog!
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