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Using our words

Choosing the right words can make a significant impact when communicating with young children.

Parents often find themselves frustrated when their kids seem to resist a simple answer of “no.” While tantrums can be exasperating, it helps to consider the child’s perspective. Imagine being told a flat no, without alternatives or much thought — it would be perplexing and frustrating for anyone!

To ease this communication challenge, try some simple language adjustments to redirect your child’s busy mind, maintain positivity and uphold boundaries without adding struggles.

First/then language: This approach helps sidestep the direct use of no and introduces sequencing for children to follow. For instance, if your child is eager to head to the park right after school, instead of a straightforward no, try saying, “Oh great! I’m excited to go to the park, too. First, let’s unpack our backpacks and have a snack — then we can go to the park. Can you please get your backpack?” This not only communicates the need for order but also maintains a positive tone.

Yes/when language: This language shift continues to support sequencing while avoiding the negative impact of a direct no. For example, if your child brings you their iPad, but screen time isn’t scheduled for hours, rather than a blunt no, say, “Thank you for reminding me to bring the iPad. Yes, you can use this on the car ride home, when we get back from our playdate. Would you like to help me put it on the charger before we leave?” This approach acknowledges the child’s request and redirects their attention to a more suitable time.

By incorporating these language adjustments, we can create a more positive and cooperative communication environment with children, fostering understanding and collaboration in daily routines.


Brought to you by:

Kids NW

922 NW Circle Blvd, Ste 160-112

Corvallis, OR 97330 | 1.888.360.0360

Audrey Benson

Behavior Supervisor

KIDS NW connects families with compassionate caregivers, specially trained in serving individuals with disabilities.


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