Upgrade Your Parenting Vocabulary

Do you realize that you had  many negative words to describe your well-intentioned, curious behavior as a child?  We all did!  You may have felt so deeply misunderstood growing up. Many people still carry the underlying current of “being misunderstood” throughout their entire lives! This feeling starts early and the examples that I share here offer a small glimpse into why. This is one way in which you can see that our culture deeply misunderstands the intentions of children. This deep misunderstanding of children creates extreme frustration for both parent and child. When adults do not hear the inherent  goodness of their children, fear and control take over.  When love was conditional and based on our behavior as children, most of us were grossly misunderstood. This created such a warping of self. Stop this cycle of mental anguish and internal struggle and open your heart to seeing and describing what your children are experiencing in a more respectful light. In doing so, you can heal a little yourself from being misunderstood as a child as well as forging a deeper connection with your child.


I would like to share that looking at the language we use when describing our children’s feelings can be a helpful step towards positive, peaceful, parenting. I would suggest moving away from the word, “tantrum.” It is a culturally common word that dismisses the fact that the child is having true, real feelings. The term sort of brushes their feelings off making the child seem “bratty,” and suggests that the feelings aren’t worthy of acknowledging as valid.

When children hear their feelings described as “tantrums,” it is humiliating and confusing to them. It is also extremely disrespectful for you to judge another’s feelings at unnecessary and this is exactly the energy you convey when using this word. I would never say, “My husband had such a tantrum!” or “My best friend had a tantrum when I told her I couldn’t go to lunch.”

Can you see how disrespectful the word, “tantrum” truly is?
Remove it from your parenting vocabulary and you will be one step closer to respect and connection with your children.

“Snatching,” and “Grabbing,” are also terms that carry judgmental, disrespectful energy. A child’s motor skills are different from of an adult. When they reach for something, which is normal and natural for a young child, it isn’t as easy, or physically flowing as an adult reaching out to touch something. It looks faster and not as deliberate of a movement. When we look through the filter of adult eyes we see disrespect, meanness and selfishness. This is, in fact, not accurate to view what is happening.

The words, “grabbing” and “snatching” often imply negative intent and greed. How do you feel about the person who has this word described to explain their action? Children are naturally curious. Babies, toddlers and young children aren’t doing anything to be  intentionally disrespectful to the other person. Children are often scolded, shamed and punished for “grabbing,” when in fact, they are so misunderstood!

It is excruciatingly frustrating for a child to be accused of doing something harmful or mean to another person at such a young age, when all they were doing is reaching out, in the only way that they physically can, to touch and explore something that is interesting and attractive to them. Their actions are quiet innocent when seen through the understanding and loving heart of an understanding parent.

When you make an effort to reevaluate the words that we use in regards to children and focus on their well-intentioned and natural needs, we see that they are following how nature is guiding them. Through shifting the words used, we shift the negative energy that has overlaid the real issues. Through this we can move closer to Radical Unschooling and Peaceful Partnership-based parenting.

When a child has strong feelings, or reaches out to explore something in someone else’s hand. Rather than brushing them off, shaming them, or making it about you, begin to see things with new eyes. Release the notion that children are born “bad” and need to be “trained” to learn goodness. Let go of the narcissistic, cultural perspective that whatever everyone is doing around us is somehow about us in some way. Also, shift your focus from scold, shaming and training to assisting, understanding and loving a young child who is expressing needs and exploring their world. Give yourself a parenting language upgrade! Use words that carry a positive energy and message and give your children the gift of being understood for who they truly are.

~Peace & Love, Dayna


  1. lee heseltine says:

    I have just read this as and thought you know what that’s me. Throughout my childhood my parents always seemed to point out what I couldn’t do or wasn’t good at. I felt constantly de motivated as a teen cos this negativity continued even with exams. If they had understood positive vocabulary maybe I wouldn’t suffer from the crippling low self esteem I’ve lived with into adulthood. I’m now 42 and still have low self esteem I am in no way blaming my parents for everything but now as a father I constantly tell my two boys even at 2 and 3 that they can do anything they want and try so hard never to use negative vocabulary. This proves hard when both sets of grandparents don’t understand.

  2. Wow – seems like I’ve upgraded without even realizing it! I don’t think I’ve ever said my kids were having a “tantrum”, though they “may not want to leave because they’re having so much fun.” I guess tantrum does sound “bad”, and I always tried to see the situation from where they were coming from.

  3. I am going to leave two separate comments…this one is one to let you know you had a grammar error. I believe you wanted to say When a child….

    When I child has strong feelings, or reaches out to explore something in someone else’s hand.

    also the l in language upgrade is not bolded if you want to fix that as well..ok now on to my other comment! 😀

  4. Loved this article! I have a 15 month old & there are times when I beg for patience. I feel like our biggest barrier is communication. Once she is able to talk just a little bit & understand more of what I say I feel like we will be golden! I want to be there for her and never make her feel embarrassed for the way she behaves, I only want to learn why & what I can do to help. ❤ ❤ ❤

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