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"Those who are careful about what they say keep themselves out of trouble."

Proverbs 21:23​​

Telling vs. Teaching  by Kathy Salazar

As parents I believe there are times we just need to tell our kids what to do – what we want and expect them to do, especially older children.  But if what they get is a steady diet from their parents of ‘being told what to do’, (even if it’s done politely) it can cause them to react with more resistance to cooperate, irritation and even resentment.

“Please turn off the TV now, wash your hands and come to dinner."

"We'll be leaving soon, put all the toys away now."

These are examples of perfectly acceptable commands that we should expect our children to be able to handle and respond to quickly and respectfully. And, it’s important that children also learn that other adult authority figures like teachers, librarians, crossing guards, etc. are to be responded to appropriately and respectfully. (This is not to imply that children should blindly just do what they’re told all the time by us or any other authority figure, but that they receive teaching and guidance from their parents about a variety of such situations). The problem – children’s ‘not listening’ and resistance – can come when parents use an overabundance of those types of commands. And as most of us know, it’s very easy to fall into the habit of telling our kids what to do!  We may have come to believe, although often mistakenly, that unless we tell them what to do they won’t do it! (Learning more Parent Talk disciplinary skills will help with this!) But also, children begin to depend on parents and others telling them what to do, which I believe deprives them of opportunities to increase initiative and self-responsibility.

In order to increase the likelihood of our commands being responded to respectfully, and to not be ‘nags’ to our children, we must work to balance the number of our commands with plenty of other opportunities for children to think for themselves about what their responsibilities are or what they need to do without being directly told to do it every time. One way to achieve this balance is to make what I call instructive statements that teach children what is typically expected and allow them time to think about actually doing what needs to be done without actually being told by a parent to do it.         

“It’s good manners to say good-bye to your friend.”
“When we’re done with dinner our dishes go in the sink.”
“Crayons stay on the table and are only used on paper.”

These types of phrases or instructive statements keep us in the positive, teaching mode instead of the ‘bossing’ mode. Being their ‘boss’ is not always the vision we want our children to have of us, is it?  I believe what we want to strive for instead is children learning appropriate respect toward us and other adults as well as increasing their ability to independently remember and adopt behaviors that reflect our family’s values and standards.  Increasing the number of instructive statements can help parents teach more and boss less. Children feel more empowered, responsible and cooperative and everyone will feel more respected and valued. 

The Parent Talk System Workbook

Through your involvement with Practical Parent Talk, whether you attend an adult class, a combination preschool and parent class, a staff development workshop or enjoy private coaching sessions, you will: 

  • Learn how to speak in words that nurture, uplift and inspire.

  • Learn how to hold children accountable for their actions without attacking their spirit or personality.

  • Learn how to set appropriate limits and make 'controlled choice' work for you.

  • Learn to praise in ways that truly help children develop a strong internal sense of self-esteem.

  • Learn language that promotes independence while reducing 'learned helplessness'.

  • Add to your tool box of parenting skills so that you and your child can become response-able.

The Parent Talk System is a style of communicating with children that creates emotionally healthy family relationships. It is a skill-based program that teaches parents a series of verbal skills and language patterns to help them achieve their desired objective of raising responsible, respectful children while reducing stress, strain, and family conflict.

There is an undeniable link between the words parents speak and the attitudes and outcomes that children create in their lives. Your choice of words, and your communication style, are critical to the self-esteem, emotional health, and personal empowerment of your children. By intentionally selecting words and language patterns that build autonomy and responsibility, you can empower your children and enhance their effectiveness as capable, caring human beings.

Parenting can be one of the most rewarding, joyful, and at the very same time, the most challenging and frustrating experiences of our lives. It is probably the most important job we will ever hold and yet one for which we have very little training. If you are feeling that you could use a boost in your parenting skills and want to discover more respectful ways to guide and teach your children, Practical Parent Talk is here to help!

​Parent Talk System - Classes for Adults

It's all about choices...theirs, and ours!


​​​​​Practical Parent Talk