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  • Susan Fletcher, Ph.D.

What to Say Instead - Alternative Responses

We have been traveling and I’ve witnessed some bad parenting moments. Yesterday we were in the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington DC and a mother was in the bathroom with her daughter. The daughter was crying and telling her mother that she needed everyone to leave the bathroom so she could go to the bathroom. She couldn’t “go” when there were strangers who could hear her.

As a mom, I felt so much empathy for the other mother. What a difficult situation - especially in public, on vacation, and about something so private.

The mother lost her cool and started yelling at her daughter to hurry up. She told the daughter through the door of the stall that she was embarrassing her. She then told her that she was going to leave the restroom and let her cry it out for everyone else to hear. She told her she was being stupid and that she was causing problems for everyone else in the bathroom and to stop being so selfish.

I ran out of empathy for the mother at that point. When I exited the restroom, the mother was standing outside the bathroom door telling the story to someone on her cell phone. I just wanted to go back in and try and make it better but it wasn’t my place. I thought about all the things I would tell the mother if she was my patient. Unfortunately, the reality is that she might not be anyone’s patient and this kind of interaction may be typical.

We have to be careful because the words we say to our children today become their own internal dialogue as adults.

There are a lot of alternative responses that can be used for the common directions parents give when frustrated. My favorites are here for you to use. If you want to make a cheat sheet and hand it out to strangers, go for it. You never know when it might come in handy.

Until next time,

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