“What did you hear me say?”
Occasionally, my kids go through a period of selective hearing loss. They start responding frequently to questions or comments I make with, “What?!”
Instead of repeating myself, or getting frustrated, I learned to say the magic words, “What did you hear me say?”
This response works well because I find the hearing deficit is usually due to one of two things:
1) Laziness. My child is just not bothering to pay much attention to what I’m telling them, and saying “What?” is an easy way of getting me to repeat it. Asking them to do the work of telling me what they heard magically slows the stream of “what?!”s.
2) Genuine misunderstanding. Sometimes my child was listening and what they heard doesn’t make sense to them. We come to a quicker understanding with each other when I know what they think I said. Then I can confirm it or set them straight.
“We don’t pull things down off the counters!”
My 1 and 3 year olds are king and queen of reaching fingers up onto countertops and groping and grabbing things down. They usually have no clue what’s up there and I can’t count the number of near misses we’ve had as they’ve pulled down plates, stacks of papers, full cups of water, buckets of toys, etc.
Even though I am in the habit of keeping things back from the edge, The Long Arm of the Law (my 3 year old) is getting longer and she just can’t seem to rein in that curiosity! My 1 year old recently learned to scoot chairs around the kitchen and climb up on them.
“How do we…?”
This is my gentle way of giving my kids a do-over.
If they say, “More, please!” I respond with, “How do you ask for something?” and they know to try again with “May I have some more, please, Mama?”
“How do we respond when someone says ‘thank you’?”
“How do we say that politely?”
“How do we interrupt someone politely?”
“How do we respond when someone asks for help?”
and on and on
I’d rather give my kids a new chance to remember their manners than criticize their first attempt.
“I’m happy to help when you do your best.”
My kids know that if they work hard, I’ll often come help them with their jobs. But if they don’t… no help from me!
My three year old also hears this from me when she’s trying to do something and it’s not working. She tends to burst into tears of frustration before I remind her that her best is enough because I can make up the difference.
“The person who __________ gets a high five.”
At my kids’ ages (6, 3, 1) they are highly motivated by my own enthusiasm. If I want a willing, fast helper, all it usually takes is a friendly competition. “The person who cleans up 10 things the fastest gets a high five.” “Everyone gets a high five if we can work together to get this laundry put away in 7 minutes.”
I’m sure that won’t last forever but I’ll use it while I can. 🙂
“Tell me about it”
This is how I respond when my kids draw a picture. I learned a long time ago that “what is it?” is offensive when they’re sure their creation should be recognizable a mile away as a purple octopus riding a train. “Tell me about it” lets them do the talking.
“You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.”
I actually don’t say this one to my kids often anymore, because they remind each other! I’m not a fan of trying to make everything “fair”. I believe life is easier and better when I just heap love on all my kids without worrying about everyone getting the same number of apple slices on their lunch plate.
So sometimes one child gets to be my buddy for cooking lunch, and sometimes another child gets the last bite of pineapple, and sometimes the same person might seem to get two things special in a row. But, my kids know that if you complain, you’ll lose what you have.
We practice being excited for another’s good fortune, and I’ve seen my kids learn empathy from this as well. The person with the special treat remembers what it’s like not to get it sometimes and they’re more motivated to share. (My kids get plenty of practice sharing, but I very rarely ask them to do so.)
“I hear you”
I respond this way when my kids are expressing a negative emotion about something I can’t (or won’t) fix.
“I don’t want to take a nap! I’d rather play outside.” -> “I hear you. Maybe we can play more later.”
“I’m frustrated that I can’t go to the party.” -> “I hear you. It would have been fun if the time worked out with our schedule.”
Sometimes I don’t understand where my kids are coming from and why something is so important (or so frustrating, etc.) to them, but they are often like me when I talk to my husband about something: I don’t usually need him to fix the situation. I just want someone to hear me.
“I love to watch/hear/see you…”
I try to tell and show my kids that my love for them is endless. At the same time, I try to be very honest with my praise.
Rather than tell them their piano playing sounds great (it often doesn’t yet), I say “I love to hear you play that piece” or “I love to see you working hard at the tricky parts”. “I can tell you’ve worked hard” or “I can hear improvement” also come out when merited. And I can always fall back on: “Thank you for playing for me. I love you.” 🙂
“Who is your best friend in the world?”
So far this works great, because my kids’ best friends are each other. All it takes is responding with their sibling’s name, and they’re usually either cracking a smile or feeling sheepish for their heated behavior of the moment before. Variations include, “What girl do you love who is wearing a striped shirt?” “How many sisters do you have to play with?” etc.
… I also need to make a corollary list for things I can’t believe came out of my mouth. Last night? “Ok, we are just not going to fight about who gets to wear a parrot on their foot.”
How about you? What are common phrases at your house?