The way we speak to and around our children directly affects the way they feel about themselves and how they interact with others. Join Lauren Vien, Education Director of Rose & Rex and author of The Guide to Positive Language Strategies, for a parenting workshop that explores positive language. Lauren will offer positive language alternatives for common phrases like “Don’t do this” and “You can’t do that” and discuss the impact these simple language shifts have on children, parents and caregivers. Spoiler alert: Positive language means less hovering for us adults and more problem-solving for our children.
Read below for a full transcript of the conversation.
[Caitlin Gassert] Good afternoon. My name is Caitlin Gassert. Vice President of Business Development in Boston at First Republic. Thank you all for joining us today for Our Words Matter, a positive language workshop for parents. Today, we are so excited to introduce you to Rose & Rex. Rose & Rex is a wonderful women founded toy boutique, offering curated content and elegantly designed toys that promote imaginative play. Their mission is to give every child an opportunity to play with one of my favorite aspects of the company, being the fact that they play it forward with every purchase made. I am thrilled to introduce you to our speaker for today, Lauren Vien. Lauren taught in private Manhattan preschools for over a decade before joining the Rose & Rex team as education director. With a master's in early childhood education and special education from New York University, Lauren is deeply passionate about positive language and developmental play. If you'd like to submit a question during the webinar to Lauren, please use the Q and A feature on the bottom of your screen. We invite you to enjoy this session as much as we hope you will. Lauren, we're so happy to have you here with us today. Please take it away.
[Lauren Vien] Thanks so much. Thanks Caitlin. And thanks for everyone who's joining today, whether you are in the middle of a day of parenting or working or both. I know we all have a lot on our plates as parents, and I really appreciate this opportunity to connect. I have two young children, myself. My son Henry is five and a half and my daughter Violet is three and a half. And if you have children around these ages, you know that the half really matters. So whether they're in earshot or not, I always find myself, they're halfway to that birthday. It really makes a difference. If you're familiar with Rose & Rex and our toy offerings and our teacher curated selection of toys that support development, I hope you'll also take a look at the resources that we have to offer. We are creating digital guides for parents and also play-based principal products and resources, as well as on-demand classes, similar to these workshops and webinars. So as a team at Rose & Rex and being play people and being a team of parents and educators, the reason why we are so passionate about positive language and the work that we do with families is because we believe that the way that we speak to and around our children has a direct impact on how they feel about themselves and also how they interact with others. I find personally that right now, there is an overwhelming amount of information for parents about what we can or should be doing to best support our child's development. And for me as a parent and an educator, I've decided to prioritize two areas of parenting. I could be working on lots and lots and lots of things, but the things that are foremost in my mind always are prioritizing play, making sure that I have that dedicated, on-the-floor, playtime with my children, 10 to 15 minute sessions, really engaged phone in an entirely different room. And the other thing that I'm super, super focused on is my language. If your home is like my home, you know that from breakfast to bedtime, there's just so much language happening within our homes. The way that we speak to our children, the way our children are speaking to each other. And also the way that maybe you are speaking to your parenting partner, those sort of all come into play and all shape and model how our children are going to navigate different situations. And also how they're going to talk within themselves, their inner voice, the way they feel about themselves and their confidence also is linked to the language that we share as a family. So I would love to launch our first poll just to get a sense of how everyone's feeling about their language that they used just today. So you'll see that the question says, how do you feel about the way that you spoke to your child or children today? First option being not great. Today was a rough one, second okay. We had our ups and downs and the third being totally impressed with myself. I'll give everyone a minute and then I'll share so that you can see how our group is responding today. Okay, I'm going to give it one more minute. Okay and let's share those results so you can see. So you can see that most people are falling in this middle road, right? We've had our ups and our downs. Maybe we've said some things we're proud of and some things that we're not so proud of. A few people have said, not great today was rough. And some people are actually admitting that they're impressed with themselves. I would say if I were to answer today that today I felt good. Like really good about the way that I spoke to my children, but it was also a work heavy day for me. So I knew that I was going to spend a bulk of the day away from my children. I sort of got up early and prepared so that when they were awake, I was more playful and present. And that sort of set the tone for the day. That certainly didn't happen yesterday and probably will not happen tomorrow. But when we have a day that we're feeling proud of ourselves as parents or impressed with ourselves, it is really nice and refreshing to own it. So thanks for sharing. So we're ready for the next slide. Thanks. I wanted to share three, really importance about our positive language approach. So first we should all sort of be on the same page about what does it mean to speak with positive language? When we talk about positive language, the easiest way to explain it is to think about negative language, those phrases like you can't do this, or don't do that. And it's not considered. I have the example here. Don't throw your food is an example of negative language. Now it's not bad or wrong by any means to tell your child don't throw your food. But when you're telling your child what not to do, you're not giving them any information about what they could be doing instead, or what they should be doing. So it's considered negative just because you're saying do not. And the positive language alternative could be to remind your child what that object is for. So food is for eating, is a very common replacement for young toddlers who are throwing their food. Maybe you pair it with a physical gesture. Food is for eating. Clear, positive statements are really going to clarify your expectations. So there's not going to be any blurry, "Oh, well, I'm not supposed to do this, but what am I supposed to be doing?" Because instead of telling them to stop the behavior with don't do this or stop doing that, you're going to tell them, "Do this instead." That's a very, very basic way of understanding positive language, this mantra that could be in your head of instead of telling them what not to do, I'm going to tell them what to do, and this results in less hovering for us. And eventually more problem solving for them. If you find yourself, I live in New York City, we are in a public sandbox, lots and lots of hours of our lives. And if you find yourself in those situations, where you're hovering over a sandbox saying "Oh no, don't, stop." The second that your child is reaching for another toy and trying to grab it, you might have prevented that grab right then, that singular grab in that moment. But you haven't taught your child how to replace that impulse to grab with something that's kinder or safer or more appropriate. So positive language is about modeling these phrases to help our children know what to do instead. And in the beginning, it's going to feel like maybe you're prompting a lot. It's less words to say no, stop, don't. Like that shorthand of "I'm right here and I see what you're doing" and maybe saying, "I see that someone's always using the shovel. You can use this or this." Seems like you're talking more. So sometimes in the beginning, you worry, Am I talking too much for my child? Am I on top of them even more than I was when I was telling them what not to do. But even though in the beginning, it will feel like you're offering a lot of prompts, you're going to be able to take a step back even with young, young children. And you'll begin to see children as young as two years old, approach a sandbox and start looking around for what's available, because that's what they've been taught to do. "Someone else is using that. So I'm going to look for what is available in this moment instead of grabbing for what I want." It takes time and practice, but with the prompting, you start, and then you take steps back and it allows us to hover much less. The third point that I wanted to share is that positive language isn't just good for your child. It's also good for you as the parent, and also great for the connection that you share. There's a lot of times where the frustration in my head maybe doesn't match the positive language coming out of my mouth, but I know that it's more effective to redirect my children's behavior this way. I've seen it in the classroom setting. I've seen it in the home setting. This is a way that you can really model for your children. The tone that you use, the phrases that you use to speak, maybe to your partner in front of them or directly to your children. That's how they're going to speak to you to each other, and also out in the world when they're not with you. So this is how we really set them up for communicating with clarity and respect. And I'll say also it's an approach that works for younger children because for toddlers, you're giving them information about what they should do. They're getting a lot of practice identifying their needs and their impulses. And for older children, it also is really important to think about positive language, because it can take away some of those power struggles and resentment that happen, when our children feel like we're constantly on top of them telling them that what they're doing is not okay or wrong or bad. And that's something that can be really tricky. Limit testing is something you're going to see from babies to big kids or toddlers to big kids, right? It's something that's going to repeat developmentally throughout your children's lives. So it's not that you won't see limit setting, when you limit testing, I should say, when you're speaking with positive language, but rather that some of the power struggles and some of the defensiveness that can come when children feel like they're constantly being told to stop or don't do something, there can be some ease with positive language. So let's shift to the next slide, please.
[Amy Anstrom] Hey Lauren, we have a quick question in the chat for you.
[Lauren] Yeah. Great.[Amy] How do I achieve consistency? I am 99% positive and respectful, but 1% of the time I snap and become a monster. When this happens, it's a confluence of events, frame of mind that burst. Should I try to solve for the 1% or is the fact that I'm 99% compliant strong enough?
[Lauren] Thank you for sharing the question. If you notice what slide, we just moved on to, you'll see that the timing for that question was perfect. So one of the things that stuck with me the most when I was a teacher in training many, many years ago, is this idea that even for educators who are trained to speak to children all day, every day, the gold standard for positive language is 7 out of 10 times. So 70% of the time, not even 99% of the time, and the fact that the goal isn't even 10 out of 10 is really a relief for many of us. But it's also interesting to think about why. So it actually benefits our children to see us in those 1% or however many percent of the time, that we feel like we're a monster or we're making a mistake, or we're speaking in a way that we don't love. They need to see us having these moments, because we don't want to portray that perfection is even possible, right? So it's important for our children to witness us making these mistakes, especially if we're able to acknowledge those mistakes with our children in the most honest and age appropriate way. So I'm going to launch another poll and then we're going to talk about what that might look like. Okay, so this question is how do you typically handle situations where you've used language that you're not proud of the first being so much guilt? The second "I'm able to accept my mistakes and reflect on how I'd like to do things differently in the future." And the third is that "When emotions are running high, I continue yelling or using negative language, even when I don't love what I am saying." I'm going to give everyone a few more seconds to respond and then I'll share. Okay. So you'll see that this also is a pretty big mix, but I think this is one that I wanted to ask, because I feel like it's important for us to just sort of recognize with ourselves what our style is when we're handling our own mistakes. I think that sometimes as parents, we're so focused on how we approach challenging behaviors or how we approach all different kinds of things that we encounter with our children. But it's also important for us to know, like, what are we saying to ourselves and how are we handling those moments? So I want to share with you an example of how I typically acknowledge these moments. And also, I just want to say that during extra tough moments, where I hear what I've said, and I don't love it, I, of course, probably similar to many parents who are joining us today, feel really guilty about it, especially because my inner dialogue is this is what I like to write about and teach about. And like, I can't believe that I just said it or that I said it in that tone or that I had a little sarcasm there. It's easy to get caught up in those moments. But when I remind myself to reflect on the day as a whole, I know that 10 out of 10 is not happening, but I've also learned that it shouldn't happen. So 7 out of 10 is almost always doable. If I really am gentle with my myself and I think about every single thing that I've said to my children from the second they've woken up until the time that they go to bed, most days, 7 out of 10, things that have come out of my mouth are positive language, but of course I'm hanging onto that one or two or three that I don't love. But knowing again, that the goal is 7 out of 10 and that there's benefits in making mistakes in front of our children, is really a comfort to me. So the kinds of apologies that I model for my children when I've spoken in a negative way is by saying something like, "I'm sorry that I used a loud angry voice, or I'm sorry that I used loud, angry words." I was feeling frustrated that it was taking so long to clean up the playroom. So this is the way that I would apologize for anything that I have done that I want to address with my children, language or otherwise. I try to tell them, I'm sorry that I did blank. I was feeling blank because of this. And that's very different than blaming the child or even acknowledging what part the child had in it. This is me saying, this is something that I did that I wish I did differently, and here's why it happened. So it gives them some context because so often children will think "Oh, she raised her voice because of me," and of course it would be easy sometimes for me in my frame of mind, in a frustrated moment to say "I'm sorry, I used a loud, angry voice. I was frustrated that it was taking you so long to clean up your toys. Or I felt like I was cleaning up the playroom by myself," but I really want to show that I'm owning this, that I communicated in a way that I did, because I was feeling frustrated about a situation. So I'm going to leave my child's part out of it and show them what a sincere apology can look and feel like. So thank you for the question. And that's one example of how you might approach that. Let's go to the next slide. Before we jump into these alternatives, I also wanted to just give you a quick, quick look at what's to come. So we spoke about positive language, the difference between negative language and positive language, how we're not trying to stop behaviors, we're trying to replace them with kinder, safer, more appropriate alternatives. We talked about how to address and acknowledge moments, where we don't love the way that we spoke. And now we're going to get into some really specific examples of phrases that parents often share with me or their go-to’s that even sort of make them cringe, that they wish that they didn't say and some alternatives. And also thinking about why are we seeing these behaviors that are leading us to use these phrases that maybe we would like to shift to more positive language? After we talk about some of these alternatives, we're going to jump into limit setting and what it looks like to set clear limits using positive language, because positive language doesn't mean that we are just telling our children positive, wonderful, warm, fuzzy things all day. It just means that we're expressing whatever we need to express with positive language instead of negative. So let's take some of these alternatives. The important thing to also take into account is that safety should always be number one on our minds as parents. So if you are in a phase and you're really excited to experiment with positive language, do not feel like you need to pause before you say anything. It's going to come more natural. You can pick and choose where to start, or what kinds of phrases you want to jump and shift immediately, but things that are dangerous, you just say, whatever you need to say in that moment. I never want anyone to feel like they have to sort of, censor themselves or hesitate because they're really trying to stick with a specific approach. I tell parents all the time that when you're saying words like stop, no as a child is running towards a street or riding their scooter down a hill that they didn't realize was so steep, if you're using less of those words in your everyday lives, then they're going to pay more attention to them when it is danger or emergency situations. In our family, something that I have found really effective is to use the word freeze. So freeze is something that to me and to my children seems to feel more like taking something on. It's not that we're asking them to stop whatever they're doing. We're asking them to do something different. And because we play freeze dance games, dancing when the music is on, freezing when the music is off, we play these games in calm, non-dangerous situations. My children have access and a lot of practice of regulating their bodies and they know what to do when I say the word freeze. So they can access that when they're starting to scoot too far from me. And I use a loud, clear voice, and I say freeze. They know that I mean it, and they also know it's something to do. So if you're struggling with those moments of safety with stop or don't and you feel like you're not really getting your child's attention, try freeze and also practice freezing at times that are a bit more playful. So we talked about this example, I'll just go through the chart of don't throw food, a phase that if you have young children, you probably have been there before pairing a physical gesture, food is for eating or even noticing why is my child throwing food? Because they're finished with their meal, or they're disinterested in the food that I offer today. So give them a way to show you that that doesn't involve the throwing. It looks like you're all done. You can tell mama "All done mama," or "Looks like you're all done. Please pass the plate to me." These physical things, giving your young child something to do with their hands that's different, it can help them signal that they're finished with their food instead of throwing the food. Something similar, no running on the pool deck, use your walking feet, please, would be a positive language alternative. And again, it's just, it calls your child's attention to their physical body. You're not telling them what not to do on the pool deck. You're reminding them how to walk on a pool deck. You want their inner dialogue when they approach the pool deck next time to be walking feet, please. I would rather have my child like say that in their head, as they're trying to navigate that slippery situation, walking feet, please. Also that feeling of empowerment. Like "I can do this, I know it's slippery, but I'm using my walking feet." It feels different to them than remembering like, "Oh, last time my mom shouted, no running, no running." So sort of challenging them also to use these positive alternatives. I know you can walk or like, I know your feet will be so safe when they walk. Again safety sometimes you have to say the first quickest thing, but if you're approaching the pool deck and you know that they're really going to want to run to the pool, then that's when you say it, maybe as they're walking in that direction. Remember use your walking feet and just let it be. And afterwards, if you've skipped the prompt and they were able to walk after you've been there a few times, then you say afterwards, I noticed that you really remember to use your walking feet. And that's something that's a really specific way of calling their attention to what they were able to do instead of a blanket like, "Great job, good job," telling them really, I notice that you used your walking feet. That's hard when you're so excited. I'm proud you could do that or you look really proud that you did that. Moving on to the next example, stop throwing sand. Sand stays inside the sandbox. This is one of those, when you start seeing physical behaviors, it's really important to do some detective work and think about why is this behavior happening? What does my child need in this moment either physically or emotionally? It can also be an emotional need that sometimes you're seeing certain behaviors for. So the throwing of the sand often is like, it feels really good to throw. They want to experiment and see what happens when the sand splatters on a different surface. Reminding them sand stays inside the sandbox. If it happens again, maybe you give them two choices. Here are some things you can do with the sand. You can dig a hole in the sand, or you can fill this bucket with sand. If it happens again, then we have to follow up with a meaningful consequence, which is what we'll talk about next. It doesn't mean that when you're using positive language, you become a broken record and you say a million times, "Sand stays in the sandbox. Sand stays in the sandbox." If you've reminded them twice, then that's enough. And they most likely have to be finished with sand. And we'll talk about what that looks like, but it's important to think about why you're seeing these behaviors. And if you're trying to replace it with something else, what is it that they really need? What are they getting from that behavior? And what can you give them to do instead? So the next time they feel like throwing, they'll know what to do, or maybe not the next time, but maybe the 10th time, that you've worked through this, they'll know what to do. If you think it's the throw, then you could say, "Come on out of the sandbox, it looks like you need to throw. Let's throw a ball to each other. Let's play catch." Stop wiggling in your chair is one that I like to share because often we, it's important too to check in with yourself and wonder, "Is this behavior bothering me? Or is it something that really needs to stop?" Maybe if you say, stop wiggling in your chair or stop moving in your chair, it does need to stop. Maybe your child could possibly fall out of their chair, depending on the chair. Maybe it's really bothering someone else at the dinner table. And you're trying to work on dinner being a peaceful few minutes of family time. So just check in with yourself. If you feel like there's things that you're saying that feel like negative language, and you're repeating them a lot, or you feel like it's a phrase you say many times in the course of the day or a week, check in with yourself, is it something that just really bothers you, that you kind of have to let go because it's annoying, but fine for this age? Are your expectations maybe a bit higher for certain things depending on your child's age? Or is it something that you really do need to replace? So I like to, again, call attention to the body saying things like it looks like your body really needs to move. As soon as we're finished with breakfast, let's march to some music to help your body feel steady. If you feel like you're seeing things from your child that are a physical need, it's best to give them some movement as soon as possible. It's not as effective to say to a child they're wiggling in their chair, they're all over the place. If you were to say, looks like you really need to move after school today, which is like four hours from now, let's go do this, this, and this that's really physically active. It's better than nothing of course. And sometimes life gets in the way, but if your child has a need, we want to try to meet that need immediately or as soon as possible, because otherwise you're going to see between now and then lots of other interesting physical behaviors. So I like this idea of saying to a child, it looks like your body really needs to move when you sense that there is a physical need there and giving them some alternatives. I used to have a couch in my home that was okay for climbing when my children were toddlers. That was like, it was in a spot that I thought was safe and I was fine with it in terms of the way we lived our lives in our home at the time. The coffee table was dangerous and sharp and marble, and it was not allowed for climbing. So I would say if I saw them climbing on the coffee table, the couch is for climbing instead. And I would help them get their climbing needs out in a different space just to teach your child that there are certain settings where things are appropriate, or "I see you, I hear that you have this need. I'm going to help you do it in a more appropriate way." If you have an older child, or if you have done a lot of this work with your child, maybe you just give them a couple of options. Looks like your body really needs to move. Do you want to roll across the rug from one side to the other or march to your favorite "We are the Dinosaur" song. That can also help a child feel really involved. For a short time, when we were going through a super physical sibling, physical play phase over here, we had a list on our wall with like little illustrations that I drew, of appropriate ways to physically play with each other in the house. So whatever gets the need done, but helping your children be as independent in that process is really helpful. And sometimes I would say, "Wow," like if they were really on top of each other, it looks like you really need some big body play, or it looks like you want to be really physical with each other. Why don't you go check out our list and choose one together. It's different than saying stop touching your brother or get off each other or even like "Go play physical somewhere else. I don't want to be bothered," like challenging them and saying, "Go look at that list. I know you can do it. I know you can find something together," feels different to them. And also helps them want to do that in the future. Let's finish these last two up. A phrase that often parents will use when things get tricky, whether your child is having like a major emotional meltdown or is very physical with another child, is use your words. And the reason why I always like to share this is because if your child could access their language in this moment, they would. So just as it is for adults, hard to access, our most articulate selves when we're feeling any kind of stress, the same is true for our children. So if they could speak at that moment, instead of pushing their friend off the chair that they wanted to sit in, or if they could speak instead of laying on the ground, because they're not able to eat ice cream right now, they would, but they're not able to at this moment. So the way that we can help them is by giving them the words that they can say, in the future or right now. And it doesn't mean that they have to repeat after you, or that you're putting words in their mouth. It's just modeling, like I can see that you're having trouble access your language. So I'm going to give you the words to say. So I just simply say both to my three and a half year old and still my five and a half year old, you can tell her, I'm still using that truck. Or you can tell him I was sitting there and I left to go to the bathroom, and maybe the other child isn't going to be on board, but at least giving them some of the language that they can try when you're nearby will help them, so they can access those things when you are elsewhere and they're figuring these things out on their own. And then the final example on this chart, don't hit your brother, don't hit your sister or don't hit in general anyone. Immediately, if it's a physical hit and even if it's something that I have to get in between, as I'm approaching, I would say to the person who is hitting, "Your body is too rough." And I say it in a very serious, firm tone, and they know that they're to check in with their body right now. Your body is too rough. And then if I know what the hit is about, then I can say, "It seems like you really want the truck back. So you can tell him, I want the truck back." Again you want to teach your child to replace these things. Like "I am really angry and I'm going to hit you because you took my truck." So you need to replace them, help them replace that with the words of what they could say instead. And with positive language also, there are going to be moments where maybe they're too physical and it isn't enough to say in that moment, you could tell them this, your body is too rough. Maybe you need to say your body is too rough, and now you need to play in another room and you can join us when your body is ready to be gentle. If you go that route, just trust your child. And when they say that they're ready to try again, or they're ready to be gentle, or their body is ready even if it was a short, short time away, try to give them, give them the benefit of the doubt. And if they say that they're ready, let them try again. Usually that time to check in with themselves and to take on that challenge themselves can sometimes make a big difference. Okay, let's go to the next slide. Let's talk about tips for setting limits. I think that one of the greatest challenges with a positive language approach is that people in the beginning who are unfamiliar will wonder, "Well, can I still say no?" If I'm not saying don't do this, or you can't do that, like, are there moments where I can still say no? Or how am I going to have any rules or limits with my children? And will my child just walk all over me? I would say that I think I have firmer, clearer limits than a lot of other parents, who maybe don't use this approach because my children know exactly what's expected of them most of the time, right? 7 out of 10 times when I'm speaking to them. So this is where meaningful consequences come into play. We talked about sand, a child who's throwing sand. You've given them positive language redirection, sand stays inside the sandbox and it continues. So a meaningful consequence is going to be directly related to a specific behavior. And it should be introduced promptly or immediately, either right during the conflict or right after. And this is sort of the opposite to a threat, right? So let's say your child is doing something that you think is wildly inappropriate at 11:00 AM. And you say, "That's it. No dessert after dinner tonight." So the challenge with that is that dessert is like hours and hours and hours away. So your child is going to feel like they've experienced lots of days in between 11:00 AM and after dinner. And also dessert, or the act of eating dessert, has nothing to do with whatever was going on at that moment. It's not like your child was eating a morning dessert and throwing the dessert on the floor. And you said, "No more dessert later." That could be a stretch, but at least a bit more connected. As a parent, sometimes when we struggle to find a consequence that will mean something to our children, we feel like we have to take away something that means something to them and that could be very far moved from what's going on. So instead to find a true, meaningful consequence, it means that it has to be related to the behavior in some way. And the example that I usually share is stalling for bedtime, because it's something that lots of kids do at lots of different ages. So let's say your child just like really isn't ready for bed, wants to play, or is overtired and like laying on the floor and refusing to come brush their teeth, I would introduce a meaningful consequence like I've called you to brush your teeth three times and it's taking too long to get ready for bed. So tonight we will only have time for one book, not two books, like we usually do. We won't have time because it was taking so long for you to come. So that is meaningful because the time that they took laying on the ground or continuing playing with their toys is the time that it took away from our book reading, which means now we only have time for one instead of two. And it's personally meaningful for both of my children, because they've had two books for their whole lives at bedtime and taking away one book, really means something to them. It's something that they do care about. So they are not going to want to stall for bedtime the next day. So that is like a win, right? You found something that's really connected. Okay you were, I wouldn't use the word wasting time, but they were using time in an inappropriate way. And because of that, we don't have time to do the desired thing that we always do. You have to be a bit careful when you introduce a consequence, because follow through is so important. And when you say what the consequence is, you really want to stick with it if you can. So I'm so careful, I would never take away both books for bedtime and my family, because they need a book to feel that closure of the day, that loving, connected feeling as the family, before we say goodnight and part ways, but taking away one book still matters to them, but it doesn't lead them in a state that now they can't go to bed for hours and hours. So that's the tricky thing, finding a consequence that is meaningful and has an impact directly related to behaviors, but isn't so intense that the moment's going to become, completely unraveled. It's important to follow through and in that follow through, also tell your kids when, like how long is this going to be in effect? Sometimes if we offer a consequence like this, your child might think, "Well, now I only get one book for the rest of my life." So when things come down, I always like to say, something like tomorrow is a new day, or, you can try again tomorrow night. And I know that you can come when I call you, or I know that you can clean up your toys a little bit quicker, so we have time for both books like we always do. You're going to be met with lots of emotion, often, tears and anger and resentment, and sometimes endless bargaining or apologies, or with my five and a half year old, I'll get, "But I'm ready to try now." And with an older child, I'll say "You've lost your opportunity to try right now," or "I was hoping you would try earlier when I called the second time for you to brush your teeth. I know you can do it. I agree with you. And you can try again tomorrow." And then I hold firm with that. I'm going to finish up with setting limits and then I see that we have some questions. So I want to get to them. Let's go to the next slide for setting limits. So here's just a few more examples of meaningful consequences. The more you rely on consequences versus threats, the easier these consequences will come to you. I know that sometimes in the beginning, even I sometimes will feel stumped like, "Well, there's this happening? And there's nothing that is related to it, but I need to work it out." And you'll find a way. And if you have to stretch it, you have to stretch it. I would be wary of things like canceling a play date for behavior that you see at home. If you really feel it's necessary, then you just have to try to make it work. Saying like, I see the way that you're playing so rough with your sibling today. And I'm worried that your body is going to continue being rough at the play date. So for today, we're going to skip the play date. You have another play date scheduled next week at this time. So you can try again then. You can make it work. I would just say, really try to connect the behavior to the consequence. And that really helps your child make different choices when they're able to going forward. Things like throwing things. I have this example about throwing blocks. Your body's too rough right now. You're showing me that you cannot build safely today. Please choose a different activity. For that sandbox example, it would be the same. You're showing me today that you are having a harder time keeping the sand inside the sandbox. Today, you are all done with sand. When we come back to the sandbox tomorrow, you can try again. Today, you can choose another place anywhere different than sand. Things like ripping books. Books are for reading. You know how to turn pages gently. I'm going to put this basket of books away because they want to keep them safe for the whole family. That's really constructive information for your child. Even a very young child, certainly for older children too. Books are for reading, like, instead of like, "What's wrong with you? Why are you ripping the book?" Reminding them like "Books are for reading, and I'm going to keep these safe for the whole family," Instead of a lecture of these don't just belong to you. Tell them what you're doing. I'm putting this away because they're for everyone. And they're for reading. And I shared the stalling during bedtime routine. Let me check out some of these questions. Someone asked, "How do you deal with limit setting?" I understand that an apology shouldn't include blame and leaving the child out, but do you talk about that at another time? Like the example, when I said that the child wasn't cleaning up the playroom. I think it depends on your goal. I think for me, and this is something that we could talk about in an entirely different workshop, but because I don't feel comfortable with forcing apologies, like I don't want to force a child to apologize to another child. I really want to take advantage of the opportunities when I have done something that I feel is wrong to just model what a sincere apology is. So if that's my goal, then I'm going to leave my child's behavior out of it. So if they haven't cleaned the playroom and that's what I'm feeling frustrated about, I'll leave it out that time. And I'll say I was feeling frustrated that it was taking so long to clean up the playroom. Even my three year old, if I were to say that, would know that she had some part in the fact that it was taking so long to clean up the playroom. So sometimes you don't have to, especially if you're conscious of blame, which it seems like you are, you don't have to specifically say and you also weren't cleaning up that playroom. And that's why it was so frustrating to me. They know what they should be doing, and they know that they had a part in that. So I think we do have to sometimes tread a little bit lightly when we're sharing these big feelings, especially if it's sort of new as a family to be open and honest as a parent and saying to your child, I'm sorry I used that loud, angry voice. I was feeling really frustrated or really angry. And they should know that we're feeling those things. But I think to make sure that we are talking about ourselves or collective we, is important in those apology moments instead of also including that they didn't clean up with their playroom. If you feel like it's becoming a persistent challenge that they're not cleaning up their playroom and you're losing your temper, then yes. At a peaceful moment before clean up the next day, you could say, "Let's try clean up in a different way." That's something also that I meant to share. When you're seeing repetitive behaviors and you feel like you're consistently working on your language with these scenarios, it's maybe that you have to look at the behavior itself and think about a shift. We've gone through cleanup, struggle phases in our family, too. Sometimes shifting it up. Today we're going to listen to a song while we clean up and we're going to call it freeze cleanup. And as the song is on, we're going to clean up. And then when mama shuts the music off or pauses the music, then everyone freezes with their toy. And then we do it again. And we'll see if we can get the whole room cleaned up by the end of the song. It doesn't mean that you don't address that cleanup has been challenging. Normally I would sit with my children first and say, "Cleanup has felt really hard for me. I don't know if it has felt that way for you. Today, we're going to try something new. And here's what it is. Let's see if it helps us enjoy cleanup more or helps cleanup go quicker." I don't think you have to, I don't want anyone to think that I'm saying, like, make everything a song and dance and game and make light of the fact that there are challenges. You can acknowledge the challenge and also show your child we're going to shift it up. We're going to change the energy here. And that can be really effective. Someone said, I have an extremely low tolerance for whining. What coping mechanisms do you recommend? Most people have a pretty low tolerance for whining. I would say for whining, I consistently use the phrase "Please use your regular speaking voice." Sometimes I also try if it's like whining to the point where you can't actually make out the words, then I would say something like, "It's hard for me to understand you when you speak in that voice." And usually they will shift it up. I try to tell myself that even though whining is really frustrating to hear as a parent, they are trying or experimenting with verbal expression, which is definitely a step in the right direction, rather than a physical expression that they're exhausted or hungry, or, they're not hitting you on the leg for food. They might be whining that they want whatever they want. So you can try those. Please use your regular speaking voice or it's hard for me to understand you when you speak in that whining tone. And I'm fine with labeling whining for my children. I think that they recognize it with each other and even with themselves, sometimes. I'm careful about saying things like use your big boy or big girl words. I don't love the phrase. I think it adds a lot of pressure to children. I think it sometimes can send the message that, there are differences between being a big girl and a big boy and sometimes children don't want to be big. So I think that that's kind of a loaded phrase. So really just stick with, "Please use your regular speaking voice and see how that goes." Can you dive deeper into the last scenario where it's conflict resolution? I find it hard to say anything, where it doesn't feel like I'm taking sides and the person shared that they have twins. Yeah, I think, sometimes when it's conflict resolution, if you're able to, I don't know their ages, but if you're able to sit down and say, even if you have a sense of what was going on, if they have the language ability to also express their version of events, I would let them both have the floor one at a time. I would say, "Oh, I saw bits and pieces of that. Can you, so and so, can you start and tell me what was going on here and then let your other child know, like, you'll have a moment also to, you'll have a turn to tell us what you think was happening too." And then let them talk it out. I think if you're dealing with enough conflict resolution with which most people do, when they're helping siblings navigate through things, there are going to be times where you, as the parent are, it's going to feel like you're taking sides, but probably each will have a turn where they were sort of in the wrong and you wouldn't necessarily say you were wrong, but you could say, I see that he was using this toy and you really wanted it. Remember that you can say, "When will you be finished with it? I would like a turn." Modeling language and also one thing that is really great about positive language is if you're using it as a parent, your children get a sense of it and get a sense of some of the strategies and some of the swaps that you make. And then they're able to use it with each other. I can now say to both of my children, "Tell him what you want instead of what you don't want." Like, if I hear a lot from the other room of like, "Stop, don't do this, get away from me," I can just pop in and say, "Remember tell her what you need instead of what you don't like," or "Tell him what you want him to do instead of what you don't want him to do." And of course, it's up to the other child to respond, but it's much more productive if at least the arguing is something that the other person can follow. So model the language, sometimes conflicts aren't resolved. So sometimes you're helping with conflict resolution and you have to figure out how you're going to approach it as a family. But I would let them each have a turn in sharing what they thought happened and then just practicing what they could say to each other, to help resolve the conflict themselves. Someone asked if one is telling the other to stop doing something. I say, "He asked you nicely to stop. Please respect that." But what else can I say? Is that negative? No, I don't think that's negative. I think that sometimes we use the word nice a lot and it can mean lots of things. So I would probably be a little more specific and just say, "I heard you, I heard that he told you to stop" or, I noticed that he told you to stop, instead of he asked you nicely. It shouldn't really matter if someone asks nicely or not. If someone wants you to stop, you should stop. So I think that that's sort of an important message to share. "So I heard him ask you to stop, please respect that." I like that you're saying respect that because there's a lot of ways to model respect and listening to people's words and their boundaries is a really important way to do that. So I think also totally your comfort. But I think also knowing that sometimes when children are telling each other to stop with their words, they might be smiling or laughing. So between my children, we have a lot of conversations. And with my husband who like loves to tickle attack them, that the moment that someone says stop, no matter what their body language is, no matter what their facial expression it means stop. And it's our job as people, no matter who we are or how old we are, that if someone says stop, that we stop. So that's something that's pretty powerful. And I think that if you continue to model that for your children, if you want to adjust that asking nicely, you can, if you want to keep it, of course you could. But I would just say, I heard you to stop. Remember that when someone says stop, it always means stop. And I think that's perfectly fine to say, not negative at all. Someone asked, I'm trying to keep an eye on time. Someone asked, "What can I do if they negotiate?" So this comes back to meaningful consequences. Two book, no, one book. I think that it's important for us to remember that children can only negotiate if we are willing to be part of the negotiation. And I try to balance the firm clear limits that I have with lots of choices throughout the day. And I find that there's less pushback and less power struggles when children feel like they have made lots of choices before it gets to the bedtime book. For us and for most families, I think it's also best in terms of, if it really is a book situation to always stick with the same number of books. Everyone is tired at the end of the day, knowing what to expect and knowing that there is no wiggle room is usually something that serves a lot of families well. So if it's a bedtime book, I would just have, it's always one book, if you want just one book instead of two, it's always one book, no matter what. And then your child will just eventually understand that that's not one that they can push or try to negotiate, but make sure that throughout the day, there's lots of other choices they can make. I'm trying to think of examples, like whether they get to choose between their green sweatshirt or their red sweatshirt, or their sneakers or their boots when appropriate. If they want to drink out of the yellow cup or the blue cup, not that everything has to be a choice by any means, but there's lots of things for our children that aren't. I think sometimes people are so conscious of choice giving and people get nervous that then children don't know how to be told that this is what it is. But if you think about it, especially if your children are in school, there is structure in their lives. There are lots of times, where they don't have the freedom to make choices. So it has to be a balance. It doesn't feel good to anyone all day long to be, to feel like they don't have a say in things. So I think if you can balance the choice with the non-negotiables and your child knows what things are really non-negotiables, that might help you. Someone said, what are meaningful consequences connected to fighting with siblings or not listening? Someone said our time out's worthwhile. It totally depends on what you feel is working for your child. Personally, I don't do timeouts for my children. I'd rather like work through something with them. We also have been working on like self regulation strategies in independent time since they were really little. So they know when they get to a certain point, if they're being like fighting, whether it's like physical stuff with their sibling, or just like being not so nice with their sibling. If I say I can hear the way that you're speaking to violet, this is showing me that you really may be are feeling whatever I think they're feeling. And I could say, you can tell me otherwise. But here's what I think I'm seeing. I say that because my older sometimes gets a little overwhelmed if I say like, "What's going on with you or tell me what's happening here?" when he's like at the end of his rope. So I can sometimes say it looks like you need a little alone time and he's comfortable spending time on his own, he has like three favorite books, or like a certain block set that are his go-to and that's comforting to him and regulating to him when he's feeling a little out of control. So those kinds of strategies are really helpful, but different than a timeout of like, "You sit here as the punishment and don't come out until I say so," is different than saying "I'm seeing this, this, and this. It looks like you need some time apart from us." Or even if they're resistant to it, you can say "Your body is too rough, you need to leave the room, come back when you're ready," but let the timing beyond them and think of it less as a punishment or a consequence and more of a reset. So again, as I mentioned earlier, if they come in really quickly and you wish that they stayed away longer, if you left it up to them and said, "You're being too physical or your body's too rough, please leave the room and come back when you're ready to join us." If they come back, then let them rejoin and see if they can do it. And often they'll surprise you when they can. Can you use this for children who leave dirty dishes in the sink? Oh, I wish I knew when that popped up, but I'm hoping so. I don't know what it was about, but I'm hoping so. Sometimes my son is trying to tell me something, but I don't understand what he's saying. He then gets frustrated and cries hysterically. How would you handle this? I think that, yeah, it's tricky sometimes, slowing down, sometimes when children are really upset, but it seems like maybe the child is trying to tell them something. And that's why the frustration is there, because there's a disconnect in the understanding. It's going to be upsetting. You can't prevent him from getting upset. that what he says is not being understood because that's going to be upsetting. But what you can do is really try to be mindful of your response, like as a parent, that's also upsetting, right? So your child just needs to know from you like, I really, want to know what you're trying to say. You can try again, or you can show me for some children, like bringing you to the place in the room of whatever they're talking about can be helpful or gestures can be helpful. And with more language ability, these moments will get easier. So this won't be the same kind of challenge that you're experiencing right now forever. But just acknowledging that, like you know that he really wants to tell you and you really want to hear it and trying to give him that time. So he doesn't feel rushed. And the crying hysterically, I think again, staying nearby and like, just trying to check yourself if you were feeling very upset that you wished as a parent, you could understand, like, try to take that out of the experience, not blaming yourself that you wish you understood just being there for him and letting him know that like, just as much as he wants you to understand you want to know what he has on his mind, and you could stay nearby and let him know that when he's ready, you could try again and maybe try differently. We are close for time. I want to take one more question that I saw earlier. I feel like maybe it disappeared. Someone had shared that they wonder about getting other people on board, that sometimes it can be challenging when you are really, mindful and specific about your language, but you don't know how to make sure that other people are on the same page or maybe you know that people are on entirely different pages and they're spending a lot of time with your children. So I would say we can go to the final slide. Thanks. I would say that keeping the 7 out of 10 rule in mind, just as it's important that our children hear mostly positive language, it's also important that they know other people speak in different ways, different styles, especially if it's someone they love, like, let's say it's a grandparent, and they know that they have a loving relationship with this person and they trust this person, but this person has like a totally different way of approaching language. And maybe it bothers us, or it isn't the way that we would speak to our children, but it's okay for them to know that people communicate differently. My children, my son, especially is like very sensitive to language. I'm sure that is my fault, but sometimes he's so picky. He'll say, "I don't like that that person was saying you're okay to that child who was crying, that child just needed to cry." And that takes some teaching to say, like "In our family, we try to give people time and we don't rush them through crying by saying you're okay, you're okay." But for some people, that's a way of showing comfort. For some people that's a way of saying like you're safe and I'm here with you. So it is a good learning experience that we're going to be exposed to lots of different language styles everywhere we go. So again, we touched on some of these benefits at the very beginning. Remember that repetition is really helpful. So even though you feel like you're giving some of the same language prompts repeatedly, you won't always have to, you can take steps back. And really when it comes to supporting independence, when we put these strategies into practice at home, where children feel the most safe, and they're going to exhibit the most challenging behaviors, because they're with us, that's when we get to use these language alternatives and they're exposed to them, specific words and phrases that they can then use independently with siblings and peers, especially when they're away from us in social settings. So there is one final slide of additional resources that I wanted to share with you. Our Best-Selling Guide To Positive Language Strategies now comes with an interactive workbook, which is another great way for parenting partners or parents and caregivers or extended family to sort of experiment with positive language and learn some of these strategies together and sort of be on the same page a bit more. We also just launched a new guide of strategies specifically to encourage independence, which is something that we were so excited to offer. And this workshop was really an introduction to our approach. There's some key pieces of positive language and the work that we do that we didn't touch on, that are really, really important to the work that we do. Things like we call it the Great Praise Debate the difference between encouragement and praise and why it matters. Things like alternatives to forced sharing and forced apologies, which we briefly mentioned. So I hope that you'll reach out to us and stay connected. We love to work with new families. And thank you so much for joining us today.
[Amy] Thank you Lauren, for being with us today and for sharing your extensive knowledge on the power of positive language with us. I'm sure our attendees enjoyed it as much as I did. And to our attendees, thank you for being with us today. As a reminder, this session was recorded and the recording will be available on our website next week. Please visit our website firstrepublic.com for schedule of our upcoming webinars. Thank you, and be well.