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In the Heat of the Moment Instead of Saying That...Try Saying This...



Quick Tips from Raising Your Spirited Child, and Kids, Parents and Power Struggles 

Developed by: Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, Ed.D and Lynn Jessen, 

Your response changes your child’s. A slight adjustment in your words and actions can make a huge difference in whether your child escalates or calms. For example, you are trying to make dinner when your child insists, she needs you to help her put a shirt on her bear. If you say, “You need to wait!”  Odds are your child will meltdown on the spot. But if instead you say, “I will help you. What would you like to do while you are waiting for me to finish this?” Your child may surprise you, at least for a few moments, by demonstrating patience you never realized she had. 

How do you change your response from one that disconnects you from your child and escalates the situation, to one that keeps you connected, calm and working together?  Lynn and I will offer you specific examples, but more importantly we’ll explain the formula behind them so you can create your own.

Our Formula: 

  1. Calm first then
  2. Seek understanding


  • I will help you. Tell me what you were trying to say.
  • I am trying to understand. Tell me what you wanted. 
  • I’m listening. Did you have another plan? 

If your child is not verbal offer a concrete reason. 

  • I will help you. Did you want to sit on that chair? 
  • I am listening. I know you want the cookie I said you could not have. 

Once your child knows you are someone who will help, and are sincerely seeking understanding, you’ll find your child will listen and work with you to solve the problem. 

Lynn and I will continue this series with connecting and calming phrases to help you successfully: 

  • Transition during the day. (Yes, it is possible to reduce and even eliminate the conflicts when it’s time to get dressed, leave the park, stop to clean-up, take a nap, go to bed, get in the car or come to eat.)
  • Negotiate sibling/peer conflicts 
  • Set and enforce clear limits 
  • Ease your child’s worries when he/she is feeling anxious.  
  • Be a problem-solving family 
  • Teach your child how to be assertive rather than aggressive. 
  • Keep your cool. 

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