Yell at your kids? Not you! You took a Childhood Development class in college and model yourself on Daniel Tiger’s perfect mother. Or SuperWhy’s dad. Either way, you definitely never scream things that you wish you hadn’t — but if you ever did, here’s how those remarks can still be teachable moments for your precious angels…
1. “What is wrong with you?”
This is a favorite when you see that your preschooler, for example, colored on the baby. With permanent marker. But even under duress, you are asking an honest and curious open ended question. Your preschooler can reflect, “Hmm. What is wrong with me? Perhaps I was feeling a bit jealous, or maybe my frontal lobe is not fully developed, preventing me from displaying impulse control.” Either way, you’ve opened up a discussion, and your preschooler will remember how you cultivated introspection when she’s a PhD in Semiotics.
2. “Just leave me alone for a minute!”
Had you seen Leave it to Beaver: The Toddler Years, you surely would have heard June Cleaver yelling this one in a nerve-wracked, shaky voice, while hiding in the bathroom to escape a toddler and preschooler during another godforsaken snow day. Your kids learn so many useful life lessons from this one phrase, like “Grownups need alone time,” “It’s okay to take a break sometimes,” and “Mommy’s face turns a weird color when her voice sounds that way.”
3. “I’m turning this car around if you don’t quiet down!”
This one shows a child the importance of driving safety. If the driver is distracted by noise or chaos, it’s not safe to drive. On the other hand, when you open a granola bar with your teeth and lob it at your squalling toddler to quiet her down while executing a K turn, this makes your child feel safe and secure. She knows that Mommy would be able to keep her wits about her during any natural disaster because even a zombie apocalypse wouldn’t be as stressful as driving with a hungry, screaming toddler.
4. “Get over here NOW!”
Your dulcet tones as you yodel this loving phrase will make any child’s ears perk up with joy. Your child is thinking, “What a wonderful mother I have, who makes sure to keep me close to her side at all times, particularly when I have been acting egregiously all afternoon due to skipping nap for the week following the change to Daylight Savings Time. I’m sure Mommy is summoning me in order to bake a (themed) cake or engage in an educational craft project, not to get me the hell away from my sister so I don’t pull her hair again.”
5. “I’m leaving with or without you!”
This phrase, uttered in desperation as you head toward your car, teaches your child so many things at once. First, a philosophical question: “Does Mom think I’m stupid? Why would she drive to my preschool by herself?” Second, “I guess not putting my shoes on makes Mommy’s veins pop out on her head.” And third, “When I grow up I’m never going to make empty threats to my kids!” (Just you wait, you 5-year-old, you.)
6. “You can have a cookie if you just listen right now.”
This one actually doesn’t teach anything about the world at all. After childhood, rewards are far deeper and more meaningful than just the ingestion of sugar. Oh well, the other examples worked. And now that I’ve finished this article I can finally let myself have a Frappuccino.
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