Among the myriad of secret mom-club facebook groups I belong to, I saw a discussion last week where people were arguing over the proper way to say things to their kids. [link to the article that sparked the original discussion: http://teachertomsblog.blogspot.com/2011/08/language-of-command.html]
“Get in the car.” or “Pick up that toy, ok?” or “Oh you bumped your head. You’re fine.” or “It’s time for a diaper change. Would you like to bring your teddy bear or hold this diaper cream?”
Part of me thought, “What a nitpicky discussion! At the end of the day, he’s got to get in the car. This is a non-negotiable. What’s the difference?”
And then I realized: It DOES matter. Jake is currently studying discourse analysis (or discourse grammar… or linguistics… or translation theory…). He always tells me about how the word choice communicates. “The author of 1 Thessalonians COULD have said this, but he said that.” “The translator of Jonah should have translated it like this, but he translated it like that.” “When you say ‘Come in here and look at your son’ you are communicating something very specific.
The general rules of thumb that this group came up with was:
1. Bossiness: instead of “Do” or “Don’t” etc, they suggested trying “It’s time to…” or “I need you to…”
2. Questions that aren’t questions: like “I need you to go to bed, ok?” when what you mean is “It’s time for you to go to bed.”
3. Distraction versus Involvement: like “Look at this shiny toy” but when possible, they suggest saying things like “Would you like to hold this?” “Do you want me to help you or do you want to do it yourself?”
4. Discrediting their feelings: “You don’t want to go over there.” “You’re fine.” Instead they suggest saying: “You wanted to go over there, but I can’t let you right now.” or “Wow, you really hurt your head. Would you like me to kiss it?”
Something I will definitely practice.