We’ve all been there. Our child is trying to get our attention, but we’re busy with something else. It can be difficult to know what to say at that moment without causing them to throw a fit or feel like their needs aren’t being met. Before you know it you give in because you want to keep the peace. But is that the solution when you desire to teach them patience? Here are some gentle parenting phrases that will help you healthily communicate with your child that you desire to meet their needs, but sometimes your presence is needed elsewhere.
No one wants to disappoint their child. But at the same time, teaching your child patience will be one of the most beneficial assets in your parenting journey.
My younger son, who’s now 3 ½, LOVES to be with me. It doesn’t matter whether I’m sitting on the toilet or cooking meals, he’s there, looking up at me with his big blue eyes, asking me all kinds of questions. And while I thoroughly enjoy this and know for certain I will miss it one day, I can’t always give him my attention one hundred percent of the time. I have myself, another child, a husband, a garden, animals, and a job. You know. Life.
Soon, this became a problem. Why? Because I kept giving in to keep the peace. And when I didn’t, I felt guilty.
But what I needed to realize is that sometimes the best things I can do for my children are often the hardest to carry out. I desire my child feels safe and secure, loved, and paid attention to. But I also want them to learn patience and adhere to boundaries — it’s good for my child’s brain development to practice independent play; it’s important for my child to accept a “no” without his world falling apart.
But because I kept giving in to his commands, wanting to keep the peace, I was doing him a disservice. So I started working on NOT giving in, BUT in a gentle and loving way. And as time went on, he’s learned to accept when things don’t go his way and have patience for when I can’t give him my attention exactly when he needs. At least most of the time, haha.
8 Gentle Parenting Phrases for When Your Child Wants Your Attention but You’re Busy
“I understand, it can be hard to wait! I’ll be there soon.”
Show empathy, but don’t give it. It’s important to enforce the boundary you set, yet let them know you heard them.
“I hear you, and I would love to help. Set the timer for 30 minutes and I will be ready.”
Timers have been a great asset in my parenting. Let’s say you work from home and you need time to finish up some emails from your phone. Instead of ignoring your child while you stare at your phone, address the situation. While you may know what you’re doing on your phone, your child doesn’t. To them, you’re in another world and have left them alone. Try narrating to them what you’re doing so they don’t feel neglected. And by setting a timer, they know what to expect and when.
“I can only do one thing at a time.”
Remind them that you are human and are only capable of doing one thing at a time. Sometimes, our kids think we are superhuman and can listen to 3 people talking at once while doing the dishes while talking on the phone while doing the laundry.
But if you’re anything like me, multi-tasking will stress you out very quickly. That’s why to keep myself from yelling, I remind my kids often that I’m only one person, and they can help me out by being patient with me.
“I would love to see what you create with your legos while you wait for me!”
Sometimes saying “no” is necessary and something your child will need to accept hearing in their life. But sometimes, saying “no” in an abrupt way is like putting fuel on the fire for an already tired and cranky toddler. By changing your wording, you can help them see the positive in the situation and avoid a tantrum altogether.
While this only worked for my 3 yo ONCE, I have evolved the phrases to better suit his needs. “I’m not sure how I can make this house better for the cars. Try and come up with something while I answer this text message to Daddy. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!”
My son loves to accomplish things on his own. I presented a problem that he could solve, using this phrase in a way that adheres to his personality. Bonus: Once he finishes, he’s SO proud to show me this big problem he’s solved all by himself. Confidence boost!
“I would love to play with you but I first want to finish my coffee.”
Your child might react to this news, and that’s okay. Help them sort out their anger with these helpful phrases.
“Dad and I want to hang out right now. I’ll make sure you get what you need when we are finished talking.”
Reminding your kids that your marriage is your first priority is important. Even though I want my kids to feel heard and important to me, they need to know that if they want to be a part of a healthy family, my husband and I need time alone together. We have had discussions with our older son about the details of this, but it’s also good to teach your young ones the importance of having a healthy mom and dad.
The same can be said for you holding your boundary of alone time. It’s hard when I wake up and my son wants to immediately play with me. But I’ve learned that if I’m going to be fully present, I need my breakfast and coffee first. After that, I give him about 30 minutes of playtime before I start my daily workout. This has worked great for us.
As everyone’s schedules are different, you might need to tweak things a bit. But my advice would be to give them a good chunk of undivided attention time in the morning. The rest of your day will thank you. You both will start off your day feeling connected, your child will feel important to you, and they will be less likely to act out behaviorally.
“My hands are busy but they won’t be in a few minutes!”
This is a great response that helps your child be more in tune with what others are going through. At this moment, you can also include them in on being helpful. “Would you like to help me while I change your brother’s diaper? Thank you for being such a good helper.”
Teaching your kids when they’re young to serve and love others by paying attention to certain needs in any given situation will be a life skill that will benefit them their entire lives.
“I know it’s hard to wait but I can’t let you talk to me that way. Try again in a kind voice. “
If your child reacts negatively by hitting or treating you or anyone else unkindly because they aren’t getting their way, as opposed to them simply being upset, it’s important you address this. Sometimes, it takes my son a few minutes to find his calm, so I wait. I want him to be genuinely apologetic, not just say he’s sorry because I want him to. When he’s ready, he will come over and say he’s sorry.
I forgive him and then say, “Would you like to try a better response?”
In these moments, invite your child to come in close and perhaps put their hands in yours. Make eye contact. Make sure they feel heard and that you desire the best for them. This feeling of safety and assurance can be magnified when they see and feel your desire for connection.
It’s challenging to remain calm and patient when your children are urgently trying to get your attention. But instead of giving into their urgency, you can remain calm and invite them in on your calm, using your words and also your actions.
This will help set the tone for peace in your home.
I hope these phrases can help you and your family establish a firm foundation of healthy communication in the future! If you have anything to add, let me know! I would love to hear what works for your family in the comments below.