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Raise Emotionally Smart Kids. 3 Phrases to Ditch Now According to a Neuropsychologist


When it comes to parenting, the way you communicate with your children plays a pivotal role in shaping their emotional intelligence. So, what should you say—or not say—to foster strong, empathetic relationships? Based on neuropsychological studies and real-world examples, we have identified three phrases you should avoid, and offer alternatives that could make a meaningful difference.

Don’t Ask: “Why Can’t You Be More Motivated?”

When children fall short of expectations, many parents jump to question their motivation. But is that really the problem? Most often, the child’s capabilities and your expectations are not aligned, leading to unnecessary friction and misunderstanding.

What to Say Instead: Explore Their Interests

Instead of directly questioning your child’s motivation, it is more effective to show genuine interest in their activities. For example, if your child enjoys video games more than books, don’t ask why they’re not motivated to read. Instead, dive into their world by asking, “You seem to really enjoy video games. What is it about them that you find so interesting?” This open-ended question not only fosters a healthy conversation but also helps you understand your child’s preferences.

Don’t Say: “Why Don’t You Listen to Me?”

In certain situations, it might seem like your child is deliberately ignoring you. But before jumping to conclusions, have you considered that perhaps you have not listened to their needs either?

What to Say Instead: Open the Door to Conversation

A better alternative is to ask, “Have I listened to you?” Instead of aiming for mere compliance, emotionally intelligent parents aim for connection. Your children need to know that you value their thoughts and experiences. This sets the stage for a respectful and open dialogue.

Don’t Exclaim: “You Are Being So Disrespectful!”

Attributing a child’s behavior to disrespect can lead to unnecessary tension and conflict. More often than not, the issue is not about respect, but about a child struggling with something they find challenging.

What to Say Instead: Engage in Non-Judgmental Conversation

Instead of accusing them of being disrespectful, try asking specific and non-judgmental questions like, “I noticed you got a 64% on your last science test. Would you like to talk about it?” Being open and willing to listen goes a long way in understanding the root cause of an issue.

Communication is key in raising emotionally intelligent children. The words you choose can either stifle or nurture their emotional growth. By avoiding certain phrases and focusing on open, respectful dialogue, you can foster an environment where your child feels valued and understood.

Written by
Nina LeBeau

Nina is a certified mediator with a background in psychology. She covers a wide range of topics from emotional well-being to stress management for the entire family.

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