It's important to be careful what kind of language we use with our little ones: because they'll use the same language right back at us!
Parenting, Teaching

“I’m OK With That.”: The Importance of Positive Language

I’ve talked a little bit about how I’ve returned to working in the classroom recently, here on the blog and on my Instagram. It’s been a tough and emotional roller coaster figuring out how our family can run efficiently, missing my son all day long, and trying to wrap my head around what it means to be a working mom.

But one thing I cannot deny that I am loving is working in the classroom again. I’m falling fast in love with my students and the work. In some ways, I feel a bit rusty and out of practice, but a lot of it is falling into place.

I had a moment that really stuck out to me that I wanted to share with you.

On one of my first days, a little girl came up to show me a couple of drawings she’d made. She’s a sweet, quiet girl who seems very sure of herself but takes a while to warm up, so I was honored that she wanted to share her drawings with me. Another girl came up. She is very loud, rambunctious and energetic. She looked at the drawings and demanded, “Give me one.”

I bit my tongue to let these girls play out this scenario on their own, to get to know them and see where their problem-solving skills lie.

Quiet Girl replied, “Well, I drew them for myself so I’m actually going to keep them.”

Energetic Girl was not going to give up easily. “Tomorrow I can draw you something.”

This went back and forth a couple of times. Quiet girl standing her ground that she wanted to keep her drawings. Energetic Girl trying to find the magic phrase that would get her to give her one. Finally, Energetic Girl lost her patience and almost shouted “Fine! I’m not going to give you a drawing ever!”

Quiet Girl’s response impressed me. She said, “I’m OK with that.”

She didn’t play into the anger and passion, she didn’t say something that could sound mean-spirited like “I don’t care”. Quiet Girl expressed her feelings about the situation and made it clear that she was going to do with her things what she wanted.

It got me thinking about how we speak to our children, and the phrases we give them to handle big emotions. I’ve talked before about alternatives for “No” with our toddlers. But I hadn’t thought in awhile about other sorts of alternatives.


People who don’t know that I work with 2-5-year-olds for my career have been telling me and my husband, “Just wait for 2-5! Kids are horrible during that age!

Since I work with this age group, I can kind of understand why. (Even though I strongly disagree, I think this is the best age!)

First of all, they’re learning how to communicate well, which means they are also learning how to talk back.

At some point, Quiet Girl may have told her parents something in a fit of anger, something they could have responded with “I don’t care.” Then that phrase would be in her vocabulary. Suddenly you have a 4-year-old saying “I don’t care!” Then you think “ugh, 4 is a difficult age!”

But instead, Quiet Girl learned a way to express her feelings in a polite way “I’m OK with that.”

Another reason why I think so many people hate this age range is that they’re really experiencing a lot of big emotions. They don’t always understand these big emotions. And while they seem ridiculous to us (really, a 45-minute meltdown because your sippy cup is orange, not blue?) they’re real to them.

We can ridicule them, tell them “I don’t care,” spank them, yell at them…Or we can teach them how to cope. We can give them logical consequences, set boundaries, and remain calm.

We can react and push against them, or we can respond and be the adult.

It’s the simple difference between “I don’t care” and “I’m OK with that.”

It's important to be careful what kind of language we use with our little ones: because they'll use the same language right back at us!

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