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Use your words, say "sorry!"

Updated: Apr 3

Words we use with our children are important because they shape their thoughts and the physical structure of their brains. Words convey our thoughts and feelings, words can incite anger or invoke passion, can bring us together or tear us apart. Words define our attitude.

Lets unpack the following 5 phrases;

  • "Use Your Words!"

  • "You're Okay!"

  • "Say Sorry!"

  • "We Don't Do That!"

  • "Be Careful!"

At Magic Garden we try not use these phrases, here's why...

"We Don't Do That!"

  • it's a reactive phrase with no alternative directions provided to the child.

  • Children don't just know what to do or what the expectation is - They are not out to "get you."

  • Alternatives: Provide them with expectations, alternatives, and the why to set them up for success.

  • For every "We can't/don't provide a "But we can ___"

  • Examples: "We don't climb on furniture, keep your feet on the floor" "We're going to head outside now! We cant run through the door because we can crash into other people, but we can stomp together!"

"Say Sorry!"

  • Parroting a word does not convey meaning.

  • Forcing a child to say something doesn't bring awareness or solutions to the challenge. what it teaches a child is that you can say a phrase to avoid or "get away" with a conflict.

  • Alternatives: (James hit Harry) "James, you're excited to see Harry but hitting hurts. You can't let you hit Harry. But you can give him a high five!"

  • Role model and leading by example, so children learn what an apology is all about.

"You're Okay!"

  • Invalidates feelings, making children feel unheard and unimportant.

  • It's important to empathize with children's feelings and provide comfort instead of quickly dismissing their distress.

  • Children are still learning to manage their emotions, so simply saying
"you're okay" does not help them to learn to navigate and cope with their feelings.

  • Alternatives: "It's hard to say "bye-bye/"see you later" to mum/dad.
Mummy/daddy always comes back.
I'm here for you. Let's find something to play with/book to read, etc.?"

"Use Your Words!"

  • Children don't have the "words" yet.

  • Children lack emotional regulation skills. They're not equipped to identify and/or manage themselves.

  • "Use your words" does not provide the tools, language, or modeling children needs to learn alternative approaches.

  • Examples: "You're reaching for your bottle. You must be thirsty.
Here's your bottle." "You're angry because you want a turn with the car. It's Jimmy's turn now, but you can have a turn after. Let's find you another toy while you wait."

"Be Careful!"

  • Vague and ambiguous instruction that doesn't provide specific guidance on what the child should do or how to avoid potential hazards.

  • Can instill fear in children and make children overly cautious or anxious about exploring their environment.

  • Examples: Allow children to explore with more autonomy and independence. This build awareness.
Risky play is essential! Bring attention to something that may pose a true danger " The playground looks slippery up ahead.
How will you move around it?"


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