“Stop it!” “No!” “I said stop screaming!” These are, um, not exactly words that will calm and soothe anxious or upset kids. So, why do we sometimes find ourselves in an endless loop of “no, stop it” when we’re working with kids—even kids whom we know have special needs or disabilities?
Because we’re human. Because we might be frustrated with a behavior we don’t understand. And, too often, it’s because we don’t have a good script ready to use when we do get a little perplexed or frustrated.
Words are powerful. Use them powerfully to bring peace to stressed-out kids.
But have no fear, Buddy! We’ve got some scripts for you to put to good use. Read these, learn them, and have them ready the next time a child is demonstrating a challenging behavior. Your words are powerful. Use them powerfully to bring peace to stressed-out kids. These phrases will help you remember what you can do to help. They’ll guide your actions. They’ll help a child understand that you’re there to help guide them, that you’re really their Buddy.
Here’s a great Say This, Not That List for you to use next time you’re just not sure what to say to help calm, soothe, or redirect a child!
- Say This: “You can have some space.” Not That: “You have to sit here with the other kids.”
- Say This: “Let’s play with this [sensory toy].” Not That: “Stop ripping that paper.”
- Say This: “Let’s say that in a [whisper, gentle, library, indoor] voice.” Not That: “Quiet.”
- Say This: “Can you use words so I can help you?” Or, “I’ll wait here with you until you’re feeling better.” Not That: “Stop crying.”
- Say This: “I’m right here. Let’s [take a little break and count to 10 together, sing a song together, hold this squishy toy together, pray for God’s peace together, etc.].” Not That: “Go sit on that chair until you can behave.”
- Say This: “I can’t understand you. Can you tell me what you want slowly?” Not That: “Stop crying.”
- Say This: “Let’s take a break.” Not That: “Stop pushing.”
- Say This: “When you sit here, you can hold [sensory or other desired toy].” Not That: “I said it’s time to sit down.”
- Say This: “Walking feet.” Or, “Let’s [hop like a bunny, crawl like a puppy, tip-toe, stomp like a giant, etc.].” Not That: “No running.”
- Say This: “Would you like to lie on your tummy while you watch the movie?” Or, “Would you hold this pillow on your lap?” Or, “Hold this [sensory/fidget toy] while you sit here.” Or, “Now it’s time to sit. We will stand up soon when it’s time for music!” Or, “I will stand back here with you until you can sit again.” Not That: “Sit still.”
- Say This: “We use kind words here.” Not That: “Don’t say that.”
- Say This: “I’ll help you.” Not That: “Calm down.”
Final note: Remember to keep a neutral face and calm, encouraging tone. The “Say This” phrases will work infinitely better when they’re spoken with love and kindness.
What do you think? Any other phrases you find yourself saying often? Share what’s working with a Buddy or LifeKids staff member you know!