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Conflict & Kids... Do's, Don'ts and the one big NEVER!

From the desk of...
From the desk of...
photo courtesy of sheilasultani

Are there perceptions of yourself that you recall “learning” from your parents?  Hopefully they are all positive and re-affirming.  Of course that’s not always the case.  A large part of it stems from the words parents use to convey ordinary frustrations or reprimands.

Here are just some of the many ideas you can use to control dialogue with kids and stay away from cementing their feet into a role they might think they will play forever.  Remember, no advice column can substitute for significant guidance.  County Health Programs of Illinois are an excellent resource providing referrals, counseling, accepting benefits or accepting payment on sliding scales.

Never say “Never” or “Always”, as in:  “You’re always the last person ready”.  Or “You never pick up your towels”.  If you say it, it will become fact.  Kids will think of themselves as “a person who is incapable of ______”, instead of as a learning, growing work in progress. Try FAKE MAD.


  • -Say “Oh, have you got another good one?” (story, anecdote, deep thought) – Listen without interrupting, except for laughs, or “You’re kidding!” etc.. - Kids who begin to assume they have something to contribute have self-respect.  Active Listening.
  • - Say “Don’t do that. Do this. That wasn’t safe” ( or too loud, unacceptable etc..) – always insert an alternative behavior and very short phrase (stick with the same words) why they can’t.
  • -Use the I-message to leave their developing skills out of it.  It’s about what you’re about to teach them (sigh, again), not about what they fail to perfect.


  • -Don’t relate too many of your own recollections, or older siblings experiences unless they validate in a normalizing way.
  • -Don’t say “NO!”, especially with the little ones. Bet you can already guess why! You’ll be eating full meals of “NO” right back at you!  Swap that one out with “Don’t do that…”.
  • -Don’t use more than those three very short phrases to discipline.  Again, you’re inviting a dialogue when it’s not welcome or productive.  And any more than that and things get vague and potentially frustrating.

YOU write, direct and star in your own production. Take ideas and use what works best for you with them. Again, YOUR goals are on the mark. Stick to your script in conflict and at the very least you’ll bore them to the point they’ll rue repeat offending!


  • Boss Man 5 years ago

    If all else fails try Ramen noodles for a week.

  • Mary 5 years ago

    Today's version of break and water? Hey, keep the ideas as feedback coming!

  • Diana 5 years ago

    Good advice here! Going to give a lot more thought to my Nevers and Alwayses. Thanks

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