I stay home with my three munchkins, ages 5, 4, and 2, and even though I’m not currently getting paid to use my degree, I still use it (without pay) everyday. I studied Early Childhood Education for three out of my six years of college (Yep. Six. Super smart.).

Some aspects of motherhood you can’t learn in a classroom — like how to read minds or how to put babies on a schedule AND attend church regularly. However, there is one strategy that has undoubtedly shaped the way I parent and helped me mold these little people into exactly what they are: future adults. And ideally, future adults who OTHER adults enjoy being around.

“Use Your Words”

If you’re around parents, you hear this phrase all the time, which instructs kids to use their words to SAY what they want as opposed to inflicting physical harm, screeching, or whining. This makes sense. . . IF the child knows WHICH words to use.

Not only do our children need to use their words, but they need to use the RIGHT words by teaching them what is not appropriate and replacing that with what is. Verbatim.

Here are a few examples of what I’m talking about followed by the exact script I use with my kids —


I know sometimes the easiest way to handle sharing is to say, “You can play with it for one more minute, then it’s his turn.” While this isn’t bad, it’s also important to provide kids with suitable language to politely express what they want so they learn how to share without adult intervention.

Mom to Child 1: “If you want to play with it, say, ‘May I please play with that when you’re done playing with it?’ and then find something else to play with until then.”
Pause for child to repeat.

Mom to Child 2: “Say, ‘Sure. I’ll let you have it as soon as I’m done!'” 
Pause for child to repeat.

Then emphasize to Child 2 that he/she would not want to have to wait a long time if the roles were reversed (a lesson in empathy). If age appropriate, you can also discuss how you would be more likely to share if someone asked you nicely, rather than yelled at you.

Hurting Feelings/Being Unkind

This is when it’s tempting to jump in and save the day. But because we won’t always be there to rescue them, we need to teach them (a) how to stand up for themselves if their feelings are hurt and (b) how to apologize if they are doing the hurting.

Child 1: MoooooooooOOOOOM! She shoved me!
Mom to Child 1: Then look at her and say, “Please don’t push me. It hurts my feelings when you do that.”
Mom to Child 2: Why did you push her?
Child 2: Because she wouldn’t let me get by.
Mom to Child 2: When we need to get by, we say, “Excuse me. May I please get through?” 
Mom to Child 1: And when she says that, you move out of the way.
Then reenact the RIGHT way with both children and talk about how much smoother it went.

Y’all, 80% of the time, we are still going through this script together because they’re just being punks. We have been doing these since they were itty bitty, and STILL, they have complete rage black outs and all rationale escapes them. However, even with Hayes (who just turned two), I see glimpses of understanding. And the 20% of the time they DO remember the scripts (I’m being generous with that number) our home runs SO smoothly, and I can see the light at the end of the toddler tunnel.

When They Want Something

This script is repeated 74,573 times a day.

Dad to Child 1: How about we lose the whine and say, “May I please have a snack, Dad? I’m hungry.”

Even if the child can’t repeat the entire sentence, the focus is more on losing the whiny tone and replacing it with something more pleasant to the ear.

There are a million more (like apologizing, oy vey, or the DO IT MYSELF script), but these are the words I repeat most often.

Remembering these responses will take a LOT of practice which means consistency is key. If you only ask them to use their manners once every five times, it will take a lot longer to click (if ever).

It’s so important to show them, by literally getting down to their level and walking them through step by step, the appropriate way to interact with others. Not only so we don’t lose our ever-loving minds but, more importantly, so that in the future they have the appropriate social skills to make good friends. And keep them.

Jordan Harrell

Jordan writes about the days with her three kids and wonderful husband to help her get through the days with her three kids and wonderful husband. She's really good at eating chocolate, over-analyzing everything, and forgetting stuff. In 2017, Jordan founded fridaynightwives.com, a blog and boutique that serves as a ministry for coaches' wives. You can find her at jordanharrell.comFacebookInstagram, or Twitter.