I SEE THAT…I WONDER WHY?
This is an observational statement that encourages a child’s awareness of others. For example, “I see that your friend is sitting alone. I wonder why she is alone?” It encourages your child to notice others, evaluate the situation, and respond with empathy.
HOW WOULD YOU LIKE ME TO HELP?
Both offering your assistance and waiting for your child to give permission and communicate their wants allows them to the opportunity to think critically and shows your respect for them.
ARE YOU OK? IS THERE ANYTHING I CAN DO TO HELP YOU FEEL BETTER?
It is often our tendency to respond to our child’s emotions with 1) assumption 2) intervention 3) annoyance. “Why are you angry?” assumes that the emotion your child is feeling is anger. “Here, I’ll help you get that jacket on,” assumes that your child is frustrated over not being able to get the jacket on, and assumes they want your help. “Why are you crying for that? It’s nothing!” tells your child that their feelings are invalid and once again assumes you know why they are crying.
Parents are the master investigators, and often your intuition will be spot on. But, by asking open-ended questions, you are allowing your child to explore and identify their emotions and to identify their wants and needs.
THAT IS NOT AVAILABLE TO YOU RIGHT NOW, BUT YOU MAY…
This is a wonderful phrase to use when your child asks for something that they cannot have.
For example, “Can I have ice cream?” You might respond, “That is not available to you right now, but you may have some strawberries or an orange.” “Can I paint?” might be responded to with, “That is not available to you right now, but you may use the Play-doh.” Or perhaps, it is about a clothing choice. They want to go outside without a coat, and the cold weather prompts you to respond, “That choice is not available to you right now, but you may wear your black jacket or your blue jacket!”
WHERE COULD YOU LOOK FOR THAT?
When your child is frustrated because they cannot find something, you can encourage their independence, personal responsibility and critical thinking by asking them to think of the places that item might be.
“How could you lose your shoes again?” is a response that communicates frustration. “Don’t you remember where you had it last?” is a response that demeans our child for their inability to remember.
“You took them off by the back door” is a response that offers our child a solution without providing them the opportunity to hone their critical thinking skills. Of course, we can and should offer our children assistance if they are unable to find something, but we do this by coming alongside them and encouraging them through the critical thinking process.
CAN I GIVE YOU A HUG?
Parents are the first ones who teach about consent to their children, and we first teach by modeling respect by obtaining permission for touch – both before, and during touch!
- Would you like me hug you?
- Do you need some snuggles?
- Can I pick you up?
- You wanted me to play tickle monster with you – do you want to keep playing or are you ready to be done?
- Are you still having fun wrestling with me or is that enough?
When the child says, “No,” or “Stop,” we always respect that unless it is something that must be done. For example, if a child says “No,” for having their diaper changed, “We have to change your diaper when it is wet or unclean, or it might irritate your skin. But you can choose whether you want Mom or Dad to help you!”
PLEASE WALK AROUND MY BODY/PLEASE WALK AROUND THEIR BODY.
While we teach our children that their personal boundaries are to be respected, we should teach them that they need to respect others’ personal boundaries.
First, parents can, and should, kindly and gently communicate if they are uncomfortable. “It hurts when you step on my feet. Please don’t do that. If you’d like to sit in my lap, you are welcome to do that!” “I am drinking my coffee right now. When I am done, you can sit with me.” “It hurts me when you pinch me. Please don’t do that. If you need to get my attention, put your hand on my shoulder and wait quietly.”
Second, we can teach our children to be aware of others.
- Remember, we ask our friends for permission to play with them
- Don’t step over your brother. Walk around his body.
- Oh, remember we ask for permission before we pick someone up!
- Remember, we don’t touch someone else’s body without permission!
- It looks like your friend isn’t enjoying wrestling anymore. Did you ask him whether he wants to continue to play this game?
- It sounds like your friend asked you to stop. We need to respect that.
- Let’s pause and ask her whether she still wants you to carry her.
HOW CAN WE SOLVE THIS PROBLEM?
When your child is frustrated when they cannot do something, you can encourage their independence, personal responsibility and critical thinking skills by asking, “How can we solve this problem?”
Using the word “we” lets them know they are not alone, and that you are available to support them. It also lets them know that they are part of the solution!
YOU WORKED SO HARD ON THAT!
When we encourage a child’s effort, not the result, we eliminate the need for approval, and the tendency to compare and compete. Instead, we encourage a child to self-evaluate.
- “I can tell you worked hard on that.”
- “I can see you used purple and yellow here.”
- “I saw how carefully you put your clothes away.”
- “I noticed how you remembered to put your blocks away.”
- “You look like you really enjoyed doing that!”
Avoid giving opinion/evaluative praise, such as, “Wow, that’s such a beautiful picture!” “You are such a good writer!”
I SEE THAT IT’S HARD FOR YOU TO/WHEN…
Instead of being dismissive of a child’s feelings, we validate their struggle and express empathy. We all know what it is like when we don’t get what we want, or when something that should be easy is suddenly difficult for us, or when we make an error and create for work for ourselves! You can empathize with what you child feels, even when the matter seems trivial.
Avoid minimizing comments such as:
- “Calm down”
- “It’s nothing to cry about!”
- “Why would you cry over what color plate you have? It’s OK!”
Instead, we can describe what we are seeing, which encourages our child to identify their thoughts and feelings in relation to their circumstances.
- “Your favorite shirt is in the laundry. I see that it’s hard for when you can’t wear it.”
- “I see it’s hard for you to pick up your toys. Can we do it together?”
- “Even though you know how to put your jacket on, I see that it’s hard for you right now. Would you like me to help you?”
HOW DID THAT MAKE YOU FEEL?
When we see our child hit, pinch, scream, or cry, we often try to circumvent the behavior rather than identify the reason behind it. For example, Jane might take John’s toy. John starts crying. How might we instinctually respond? “Jane! Why did you take John’s toy? John, stop crying!”
What might be a better approach?
“Jane, I can see that you really wanted to play with that toy. I know it’s hard to wait, and you must’ve felt very frustrated. But how do you think John feels now?”
“John, I see that Jane took your toy. How did that make you feel?”
“Jane, next time someone is playing with a toy that you want, what can we do instead?”
Get the printable here! 12 Montessori Phrases to Use At Home