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Thoughtful Communication: Making the Most of Our Words

Words are incredibly powerful. We use them to get things done, communicate our feelings, influence behavior, and generate new ideas. Words can also be an art form expressed in poetry, novels, and music. Taking a moment to think about effective and ineffective communication with our words can be a powerful way to transform how we interact with our children or others.

Parents have the heavy responsibility of protecting and preparing children for their futures. We love, train, correct, and inspire them with our words. Jim Fay and Foster W. Cline, M.D. founded Love and Logic in 1977 with a focus on practical tools for parents to have healthy relationships with their children. They propose that parents often get sidetracked by using what they call “fighting words” versus “thinking words.” In my home, I refer to this as picking a fight with my words. If my goal is to get out the door in five minutes, I have options on how to get that done. I can march into my daughter’s room and say, “Put these shoes on now. We need to go!” That would be fighting words that invite pushback or resistance. I could also walk into her room and say, “We need to leave in five minutes with shoes on our feet. Do you want to wear these shoes or this other pair?” This would represent thinking words. Both interactions have a goal in mind- getting out the door with shoes on. One way of communicating invites resistance. The other way invites participation.

Sometimes parents might have a muddled view of what authority looks and sounds like. You can still be polite and also be in charge. Strategic communication actually invites children to participate. When we give in to barking commands or using our words to overpower our strong-willed children, we actually invite rebellion. The cycle never ends. We pick a fight with our words and then our children get in trouble for fighting. Everyone is left frustrated and with a lot less energy. If we are thoughtful, however, we can still get things done while communicating in a way that invites our children to participate. Talking this way doesn’t guarantee that everything will go smoothly, but it increases the chances that our children will willingly be a part of the process.

Here are some examples of how to talk in ways that invited fighting or invite participation.

Child- Can I go to my friend’s house?
Parent- No! You are staying here and cleaning your room. I’ve already told you three times (Fighting)
Parent- Yes. You can go to your friend’s house as soon as you clean your room. (Inviting Participation)

Parent- Don’t talk to me like that. Watch your attitude! (Fighting)
Parent- You seem to be angry. I will talk with you when your voice is calm like mine. (Inviting Participation)

Parent- Stop fighting! Be nice to each other and stop being so mean! (Fighting)
Parent- You guys seem to be having a hard time getting along. Why don’t you take a break in your room until you are ready to come out and treat each other nicely. (Inviting Participation)

If you would like to learn more about different parenting strategies, join us at Improving Lives Counseling Services for a six-week parenting series on Mondays from 6:30-8:00 pm. Our Class on Monday, September 21st, will specifically focus on effective communication with different strategies for connecting with children. The classes will be online each Monday through October 19th. For more information, click here to review the schedule, call us at 918-960-7852, or email Kneale Ewing.

Lauren Alvarez, MA

Certified Parent Educator

Elementary School Counselor

Graduate Counseling Intern, LPC Track

Recommended Reading

Parenting with Love and Logic:

How to Talk so Kids Will Listen, and How to Listen so Kids Will Talk


About Love and Logic. Retrieved from,parents%2C%20and%20other%20professionals%20worldwide

Cline, Foster and Fay, Jim. (2006). Parenting with Love and Logic. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.