What does it mean to communicate effectively? Communication is effective when you consistently get your desired result.
If the way you're communicating with your child now is causing lots of arguing, avoidance, and distance between you, then you know you need to change your approach.
But, figuring out exactly what to say or how to say it to get that result can be really challenging - especially when you're so used to the usual routine. That's why I've put together this list of 50 sample phrases you can apply in many common situations.
These phrases may seem simple, but they are very carefully crafted to help you connect with your child on a deeper level and speak to your child in a way they'll actually listen!
I’ve organized them into four categories:
1 - encouraging open dialogue and honest communication
2 - helping your child through challenges at school
3 - setting limits, boundaries and expectations
4 - positively reinforcing better habits
IMPORTANT: These phrases will only work if you communicate authentically, from the heart, and without judgement. Check out this Vlog to learn how to respond instead of react to your oppositional child, and check out this Vlog to learn seven ways to stay calm in any situation.
Check out the 50 sample phrases below:
Say this to encourage open and honest conversations.
Tell me more about that.
You sound frustrated. When you can say that in your regular voice, I’ll be ready to listen.
What was it like when she said that?
Why do you think your friend did that?
Thank you for sharing how I made you feel, I will be more aware of that next time.
Thank you for asking…
Thank you for letting me know.
What’s your opinion on _______?
I see that you’re upset, can you fill me in on what happened?
I can see how that would make you feel annoyed/upset. What else happened?
I hear you, that must be difficult.
What were you worried would happen if you did that?
Did you know I had the same feeling when I was your age? [Tell a short story] Is that how you were feeling?
I know you don’t feel like talking, let’s take a break to calm down and set aside 10 minutes to finish this conversation at X o’clock.
I know that was difficult for you to share, and I appreciate you being honest.
Say this to help your struggling student.
I am confident that you will figure it out, let me know how I can help.
I’m impressed with how much work you put into that paper/project/test, even if you didn’t get the grade you hoped for.
I know that didn’t turn out the way you wanted, but I’m really proud of you for trying. Next time, I’m sure you will get even better!
I know you’re super tired after baseball and the LAST thing you want to think about is homework, but this English paper is due tomorrow. How long do you think it’s going to take you to finish? OR What will help you stay focused?
What is the most difficult part of this assignment? What would make it a little easier for you?
I would love for you to go to the mall with your friends, but you have a lot of homework due tomorrow and you just don’t have the time tonight. What’s something really fun you can do instead when you finish your homework?
I can see you are overwhelmed with the amount of work you have to do, what is the most important thing you can focus on getting done? Do you want start with the easiest or hardest; the most important; your favorite subject or least favorite first?
How long, realistically, do you think this will take you?
This is a big project, how can you break it into smaller chunks? OR What days will you work on it this month so that you can finish it on time?
I know you don’t understand your science homework, so why don’t you pick three questions to try out, and write down all your questions for your teacher tomorrow?
This project is due tomorrow, but it looks like you will not have enough time to finish. Let’s email your teacher and let him/her know you will need some more time to turn it in. How much more time do you think you will need?
Say this to set limits, boundaries, and expectations.
I see that you have a lot of energy and want to play, but it is bedtime and I am going to tell you the funniest story after you brush your teeth and get your pajamas on!
I know you really, really, really want to keep playing your video game, and it feels so unfair that you have to stop and go to bed, but you know your bedtime and I need you to turn it off right now. [Pause and wait for them to turn it off, do not respond to whining or negotiation, just wait patiently.]
You’re upset because you wanted a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for dinner, but tonight we are eating chicken salad. Let’s make a sandwich for breakfast tomorrow, or I can pack you one for school. Which one would you prefer?
I know you really want both toys, but we only have enough money for one/ agreed that you will only buy one toy today. If you cannot pick one, I will help pick one for you. AND/OR Let’s play with both of them for 1 minute to decide which one is more fun!
I know you don’t mind if your bedroom is messy, but it is important to get organized so you do not lose your things. How can you design this space so that all your things are easy to find?
I know you hate cleaning your room, what can you do to make it more fun? AND/OR Is there anything I can help you do?
I realize I made a mistake when I said you could play with the iPad today. It’s not a good choice because you have other activities to do today and we need to make time for them.
Oops, you forgot to clean up the mess in the living room, I’ll bring a trash bag for you.
Oops, you spilled your juice, I’ll toss you a sponge.
We do not hit, because it hurts other people.
We are leaving the playground now because it’s getting dark.
We are going into the store now, today we’re just buying food for dinner.
I know you don’t want to get out of bed, you’re so cozy. You’re like a giant caterpillar in a cocoon...wait, I think I see a wing popping out!
Say this to positively reinforce better habits/help your child solve problems.
I don’t like when you hit your sister, but I love when you give her a hug!
What can you do differently next time to get what you want?
I noticed you took out the trash without me asking you, yay!
I saw that you shared your favorite toy/the last slice of pizza/the remote with your brother and it made him so happy! That made me smile.
I really appreciated that you didn’t push your sister back when she pushed you, I know that took a lot of patience.
Do you remember the last time something was really hard for you to do? How does it feel now?
I feel hurt that you were dishonest with me, but I love that you came to me and told me the truth.
I’m hearing a lot of what you don’t like, not what you would like to happen. What’s your idea?
Can you tell me what you want, instead of what you don’t want? That way I can help you.
Do you want to put that back, or should I put it back for you?
Want to take a short walk while we figure out what to do?
Shifting communication habits takes a lot of time, effort, and persistence. This goes for both you and your child. Transforming the way you communicate will take a lot of practice and you can expect to hit lots of turbulence along the way. That's to be expected! Your child will test your strength, your patience, and your boundaries, so your job is to stay centered and confident.
No matter what, don't give up! Keep moving forward and celebrate every single victory along the way, no matter how tiny!