Stop Telling Children (especially Boys) To“use Their Words” And Say Something Instead

If I look at my reasons for using the phrase“Use your words”, I can see my intentions. When my child (now 4 years old) loses his temper, I say this to help him faster. After all, I understand words faster than tears. And Mom — me! The Ultimate Problem Solver, right?

But that is the problem. When I think back, the“Use your words” success rate was zero. If I put myself in my son’s place, I’ll understand. Hearing“Use your words” at a difficult moment (like when I put honey on his chicken and, alas, he didn’t want to put honey on his chicken) is frustrating at best and protective at worst.

The main reason is that, at his age, he has not developed the ability to reason through nonverbal emotions. Toddlers and preschoolers are still learning how to handle events, emotions, and language at the same time. “Use your language” sets an unrealistic expectation that they will never be able to meet.

So What’s the more powerful approach? According to experts in Transforming Toddlerhood, it’s more effective to pause and acknowledge how your child might be feeling in the moment and remind them that you’re on their side. Their advice is. Say: “I see you are very sad. What Happened?”

As a next step, put curiosity first. Try to describe the situation to help them sort out their feelings and find the behaviors that upset them in the first place. I noticed that after I put Honey on your food, you got upset and stopped eating. Do you want to eat honey

Yes, eventually, you want to empower them, in fact, to“Use their language,” especially as a substitute for physical outbursts like tantrums. But building an emotional vocabulary is a skill they must learn. Even if they do, they should remind themselves that translating feelings into words when we are under pressure is difficult at any age.

One last thought. Saying“Use your words” may inadvertently teach children to push their emotions aside rather than practice self-regulating social-emotional skills. In other words, try to remember this phrase not to downplay the emotion, but to express it. This is especially important for boys because they are often thought of as being anti-tearing. In the long run, this can lead to behavioural problems and may hinder their overall development.

In a word. We want our children to be able to express their feelings so that their world doesn’t feel oppressive and scary. But throwing them into the abyss is counterproductive when they are unable to describe and process their emotions.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *