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Change Your Catchphrase: A Parenting Phrases Cheat Sheet by Lauren Bomberg, MA, LPC, BC-DMT

Updated: Apr 26

Change your Catchphrase: A Parenting Phrases Cheat Sheet by Lauren Bomberg, MA, LPC, BC-DMT, Bergen County Moms

A child’s socio-emotional development and self-image are significantly impacted by the way we speak to them. Children look to us to feel capable with a sense of belonging and autonomy. In the everyday hustle, we so often sound like broken records trying to bypass a meltdown and hurry along.

Instead, when we intentionally model positive language for our children, we are more likely to feel confident as their life coach. We gain their cooperation in the process too. I bet you are a good parent who can have a hard time, and I bet you have a good kid who can have a hard time. 

Parents, I invite you to use this cheat sheet as a tool to change your catchphrases. (Tone and delivery count too!) Together let’s normalize and validate all feelings, see the good inside our kids, and teach appropriate behavior and boundaries!

Nurturing Connections with Positive Parenting Phrases

Normalize & Validate Feelings

Phrases to Avoid

Positive Alternatives

You’re ok.

How are you feeling?

It’s not that hard.

You can do hard things!

Stop crying. You’re not a baby anymore.

Let it out. I’m here.

You get what you get and you don’t get upset.

You really wish you got a different one. I get it.

Nothing even happened. You’re fine.

You didn’t expect that to happen, huh?

But you’re going to have so much fun there without me. Don’t worry.

You wish you could stay with me. You might miss me, and I will miss you too. Here’s what I know: You’re safe here and I always come back.

Go play with the other kids like your brother.

It seems like you are watching the kids and listening to your body right now. You’ll know when you’re ready to join.

Don’t say that. You’re not “stupid!”

It seems like you’re saying mean things to yourself right now. Tell me the hardest part and we will work through this together.

Most Generous Interpretations

You’re giving me a hard time.

I can see you’re having a hard time.

Don’t talk to me like that.

Something must be feeling icky inside for you to have said that to me.

What a mess!

Looks like you had fun! How can we clean up to show care for our things?

I just told you! You need to listen the first time.

Something must be unclear or confusing to you. Let me show you another way.

It’s rude to walk away while your grandmother is talking to you.

Something else must have caught your attention. Let’s check it out as soon as we are done chatting with Grandma. We can even invite her to come see it!

Invite Cooperation

If you don’t turn off the TV right now, there won’t be any time for stories in bed.

When you turn off the TV, then we can start storytime. I wonder what book you’ll choose tonight?

We can’t go to the park without your shoes on.

As soon as I see your shoes on, I’ll be happy to take you to the park. Which sneakers look comfy for climbing?

Are you ready for your bath?

It’s time for your bath. Do you want to play with the fish or sailboat in the water?

If you don’t come right now, I guess I’ll have to leave without you.

I know you want to stay. You had so much fun here. It’s time to go and we’ll come back soon. Would you like to hold my hand or bunny hop beside me all the way to the car?

I do everything around here.

I appreciate it when you clean the playroom with me. You’re a great helper. Would you rather be in charge of tidying the bookshelf or carpet today?

Setting Boundaries

No hitting.

You can be mad, and I won’t let you hit me. I’m going to step back to keep my body safe. You can hit your drum set.

No means no!

Two things are true. I’m in charge of the decision and I’m deciding no right now. You are in charge of your feelings and you are allowed to be upset.

Don’t jump on the nice couch.

Please keep your feet on the floor. If you feel like jumping, you can ask for trampoline time outside.

Hey! Stop! No running by the pool.

When we get to the pool, we walk only. If that gets tricky, I will hold your hand or we will take a break sitting on our towel.

Enough is enough. Do I need to separate you two?

Let’s take a break and reset. We can try again when everyone is calm.

I can’t play right now. Can’t you see I’m on the phone?

I see you want to play with me. I love playing with you too! When I put down the phone, I will be ready to play. I wonder what game you’ll choose for us while you wait?

Utilizing the Power of Positive Communication

Our words hold immense power in shaping our children’s emotional well-being and self-perception. By consciously choosing positive language, we not only create a sense of belonging and autonomy but also strengthen our bond as trusted guides in their journey.

Let’s embrace the opportunity to transform our catchphrases into affirming statements and create an environment where all feelings are acknowledged, cooperation is invited, and boundaries are set with empathy and respect. Together, we can cultivate a nurturing space where our children thrive through life’s challenges with confidence and grace.

If you are looking to improve your communication skills and enhance your relationship with your child, the Lukin Center for Psychotherapy is ready to help you seek out guidance from a licensed mental health professional. Parent-Child Interaction Therapy is one of many effective approaches we offer to improve familial connections. Therapy sessions can be for you, your child, or you both. By giving your child a safe space to discuss their thoughts and feelings, they will gain valuable insight into their behaviors and learn how to navigate relationships in a healthy way.

*For more information and ideas, you too may reference the work of Dr. Becky Kennedy at Good Inside who coined the term “Most Generous Interpretation” in parenting and deserves credit for developing or inspiring many of the above phrases.

Lauren Bomberg, MA, LPC, BC-DMT is a psychotherapist at Lukin Center for Psychotherapy, specializing in treating young children with neurodevelopmental, social-emotional, and behavioral challenges while supporting their parents with positive solutions. She is particularly passionate about the treatment of anxiety and related disorders. Adult work may focus on navigating life transitions and stressors, relationships, occupational or academic pressures, and perfectionism.

Lauren uses evidenced-based, solution-focused, and strengths-based approaches with unconditional positive regard for the client to foster healthy coping and communication skills. As one of few Board Certified-Movement Psychotherapists in New Jersey, Lauren finds creative and playful ways to actively engage children in session to meet their individualized treatment goals. She supports their parents with Positive Parenting tips and scripts, Parent-Child Interactive Therapy (PCIT) skills, and her professional training in the scientifically-proven Supportive Parenting for Anxious Childhood Emotions (SPACE) program. Finally, Lauren empowers clients with psychoeducation and incorporates Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) skills. Previously, Lauren spent years refining her clinical skills at the partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient levels of care. She has provided group, individual, and family therapy to children, adolescents, and adults in crisis with a variety of acute psychiatric diagnoses. During her graduate studies, Lauren focused on child development and nonverbal communication, serving infants to adolescents with neurodevelopmental and motor disabilities in specialized and inclusive school settings. Her thesis, inspired by Attachment Theory, was published and selected for presentation at the ADTA national conference. Dedicated to lifelong learning and quality care, Lauren frequently participates in continuing education and mental health advocacy today.

Lauren earned her Bachelor of Science from Muhlenberg College, where she majored in both Neuroscience and Dance with a concentration in Dance Science. She then attended Drexel University, where she earned her Master’s degree in Dance/Movement Therapy and Mental Health Counseling.

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