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Several years ago, I wrote this post about how our words impact our children in so many ways. Tomorrow, our oldest son turns 17 and not a day has gone by that I don’t keep this in mind. Every word that we speak has the ability to help or hinder our children. It’s up to us to choose to empower, love, guide, and support them with our words.

I wanted to share that post again today…

inner voice

Every morning, it starts over.  We get a chance to shape the lives of our children.   The way that we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.

Think about when your kids make a poor decision…  they spill milk on their homework (when they aren’t supposed to be eating or drinking near it), they break your favorite picture frame (when they shouldn’t be throwing a ball in the house), they don’t clean up their room, they track mud into the house… each thing after you’ve told them time and time again what to do.  

Your first reaction: “Ugh!  I wish you would have listened to me… this would not have happened!”

I get it because I did this, too.

Several years ago, Mickey and I started trying something different.  We looked at the ACTION, not our kids.  Instead of reacting with anger, we reacted with empathy.   I stopped yelling and stopped reprimanding.

Instead, I just gave the consequence with sincere empathy.

Yes, our words resonate with our children.

A little girl sitting in the grass with a text beside her.

                                      (Thanks to my husband for this picture & to Peggy O’Mara for the quote)

Remind your kids that you love them, no matter what they’ve done. 

These four words will change the way you think as a parent… “I Love You And…”

You are telling them you love them even though they have done something you aren’t happy about.  Their actions do not impact your love. Yes, you expect better of them, but it doesn’t change how much you love them.

When our kids do something that I disapprove of, I often start with, “I love you so much.  Your choice today made me really sad, and it wasn’t what I expected from you”   or I will discipline them and talk to them afterward.   I tell our kids every day, “I love you all the time.  I love you when I am happy or sad.  I love you when I am excited or angry.  I love you when you make good choices and bad choices.  I love you when you are home or away” … (the list goes on & on).

Our kids do it, too.  When our son, Ethan, was five years old, he said, “Mom, I’m sorry that I wasn’t nice to you today at lunch. I was mad because I wanted peanut butter and jelly.  I love you all the time, even when I’m mad at you.”

That’s loving unconditionally.

summer 7

You can’t take it back.

I was a teacher, and one time I had a conference with a student and his family.  When I told his parents about his declining reading score, he looked right at his son and said, “Do you even try?” and looked back at me and said, “Sometimes, he can be so dumb.”

I was dumbfounded.  

What on earth is going on here?! I used that opportunity to build up the child and explain his many strengths.
The point is that you can’t take it back.  You can’t take back words like “lazy,” “dumb,” “thoughtless,” or “mean”  – once they are out there, they stay out there. Your kids continue to hear these words in their heads.

Instead of saying, “You are so lazy. Get up and help me!” Try saying, “You work so hard. Can you give me a hand?  It will get done so much faster.”   I can (almost) guarantee that it will work 100% better than going the negative route.   Instead of tearing them down, you are building them up and achieving the same end result: they are helping you.

boating 5

Today, use your words to help your kids.  If you are looking for more on the subject, check out the course Parenting Manual 101.

** If you liked this post, I want to encourage you to sign up for my FREE e-mail series about one-on-one time.  I will send you tips, ideas & encouragement in my free e-mail course.  No strings attached… I want to help you find that relationship with your child that you both deserve. ♥. You can sign up here. 

I’ll send you this calendar, too.

A close up of a calendar on a white background.


3 words we should be telling our kids

why I still carry my kids

10 ways to teach kindness

Hi there!

I’m Becky, a former elementary school teacher turned certified child development therapist and blogger. I work at home with my husband and together we are raising (and partially homeschooling) our four children in the Carolinas. I love diet coke, ice cream, and spending time with my family.

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  1. You are right, there’s always a better way to express what we are trying to communicate because they are learning from us. And our goal as moms is to teach them to treat those around them with respect and that starts with the kind of respect we treat them with.

    1. What about all of the times we have done this already? Is there anyway to help mend those negative outbursts? My hear is breaking as I read this. During this quarantine I have found myself snapping at my kid so much and always making negative comments because of the stress of work, kids, their school, and all other life responsibilities as well as the worry of my husband out in the most infected areas around us. I feel so awful. 😢

      1. 🙁 <3 Just start new tomorrow. There is always room for healing. It’s unrealistic to think we’ll never snap at our kids again. We are all just doing our best. Tomorrow is a new day, and you can work hard to begin making changes.

  2. Oh my goodness. I don’t know you and I NEVER comment on blogs but today my heart has been so heavy with my lack of skills as a mother yet my deep desire to do it well. And i found comfort and more importantly hope in your words. From a stranger to another- a simple thank you! For the spirit of God just spoke to me through you.

    1. Thank you, Heather. I truly believe that He knows what we need & when we need it. Have a wonderful day.

  3. Great theory but let’s talk about reality. If my kid is being lazy I am not going to sugar coat it, I’m going to tell him he’s being lazy and needs to get off his a** and do his chores or homework.
    I am so tired of reading articles on how we should talk to our kids vetter, build them up, make them feel like rockstars and not ever hurt their feelings. My job as a parent/step-parent is to raise my kids to live in the real world where life isn’t fair and words can be hurtful but to still stand up and know they have meaning and have self confidence to keep trying.
    I’m not saying we should tell our kids they are dumb and worthless, I’m saying if they spill the milk after being told to move it they should hear that they should have listened and now they don’t have any more milk. Then, make them clean it up. Next time, they will probably be more careful.

    1. Consequences (for spilling the milk) should always be proportionate and loving. Label actions ( lack of listening, refusal to do chores, etc.). but do not put negative labels on your children. Teach them that “the real world” is not always respectful and kind toward others, and show them how to listen to the truth about who they are when the world wants to step on them. Teach them empathy, not reaction toward others. Show them how to listen to others by listening to them. And remember that spilled milk is no where near as important as them knowing that they are loved without exception.

      1. By telling your children that their actions made you sad (and so on and so forth), you are telling them that your emotions depend on their behaviour. Which of course, they do. How about telling them – “you spilled milk, you wasted time/money and now you need to clean it up. Please be careful next time because it is wasteful to behave like that and you will need to put more time and energy to fix things afterwards”.

  4. Your post is on point… dito Heather’s comment above I also never comment on posts but your spoke to me today.
    I struggle with the execution of the content….in the heat of the moment its hard to remember, or I remember half and tone down.. how long did it take you and your husband to change the way you responded ??

    1. Not long. Pretty immediate because we kept each other accountable & really worked on it.

  5. There are the words I wish every parent could hear… they should be read, heard, seen, every day. We as parents try so hard, and yet we forget the simple fact that our kids learn everything from those around them. I’m not a perfect mom. Most times I feel like a horrible mom, especially when I lose my patience with my son. He’s learned soany bad habits from his cousin that it makes his dad and me so annoyed. But it’s things like this that remind me to reinforce, not get angry. And it’s hard. But I thank you for reminding us that there are better ways…

  6. Hi there, great article! The quote in the title ‘The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice’ is by Peggy O’Mara.

  7. Thanks for this article. I try my best to be positive with my daughter, even when she is misbehaving. I’m not perfect, but I do try. There are certain words that I never use when talking to my daughter and they are that she’s “bad” or “stupid”. I’ve had to correct my husband several times in the past when he has reprimanded our daughter by calling her a bad girl. I told him that she will start associating herself with that word if we use it, so now he really tries not to say that. However, I was dumbfounded when I went over to a client’s home to shoot their family photos and the father got mad at his sons for doing something and he actually said, “What are you, stupid?” I agree with you that we need to be kinder to our children so that their inner voice will be kinder to them.

  8. This is wonderful. However, I would like to suggest instead of using the word “but,” which negates everything you have said up until the but, you use the word “and.” I love you AND….

  9. I loved reading this article, and wish I could say I am like this. I do love my children more than anything, but sometimes I find myself shouting at them for not listening to me. I have used the word stupid and instantly regretted it. When I think back to occasions where we have had a shouting match it really upsets me and makes me wonder what my kids must think. Also I know that me getting angry and stressed and shouting isn’t helping.
    I have vowed from this day I will be a happy positive mummy and not shout or bark orders but talk to my kids, give them some leeway and most importantly have fun with them.
    Thank you for your article
    Mummy of a 3 and 4 year old

    1. That’s awesome that you are going to try that… you can do it.