Upgrade Your Parenting Vocabulary


I would like to share that being mindful of 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 brushes off their true feelings making them seem “bratty,” and suggests that their feelings aren’t worthy or valid.

When children hear their feelings described as “tantrums,” it is embarrassing and confusing to them. It is also dehumanizing to judge another’s feelings as unnecessary. This is exactly the energy you convey when using this word. I would never say, “My partner had such a tantrum!” or “My best friend had a tantrum when I told her I couldn’t go to lunch.” Children deserve the same respect that adults do. There never needs to be a double standard.

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 than that of an adult. When they reach for something, which is normal and natural for a young child, it isn’t as easy or as smooth flowing as an adult reaching out to touch something. It looks faster and not as deliberate of a movement. Looking through the cultural filter of an adult, 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 when all they were doing was reaching out in the only way that they physically can. Children have the instinct to touch and explore something that is interesting and attractive to them. Their actions are quite innocent when seen through their eyes and heart.

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 their behavior 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 being a victim in some way. Shift your focus from scolding, shaming and training to assisting, understanding and loving a young child who is expressing needs and exploring the world around them. 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. 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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