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Kids are people too—loving heart, mindful speech

Danielle LaPorte is the co-creator of Style Statement: Live By Your Design and the co-founder of – a resource for living an inspired life and making a difference in the world. Danielle’s Style Statement is Sacred Dramatic. Her almost five-year-old son keeps her real.

“When I approach a child, he inspires in me two sentiments; tenderness for what he is, and respect for what he may become.”  – Louis Pasteur

How would you feel if, when you first met someone new, they said to you, “Are you going to play shy?” or “Looks like someone’s in a bad mood.”  What would you think if, when you needed a good boo-hoo, your friend said, “You’re fine. Don’t cry.” And if someone had an issue with you and they let you know about it in front of everyone in the room, how would that go down with you?

Grown-ups say the darnedest things to kids—things we’d never dare say to a fellow adult. And in the process it can create tremendous confusion between a little person’s genuine feelings and what they’re being told to feel. It’s a discombobulation that many of us carry far into adulthood as we fumble to “get in touch with our feelings.”

Whether sad, mad, silly, or giggly, having your feelings respected fuels your shine—at every age.

This week, be conscious of your power with kids. Whether you’re a Mama Bear or a distant big cousin, this basic approach is divine: don’t say anything to a child that you wouldn’t say to a grown-up you adored.

When you were a kid, how sparkling, and “in,” and loved did you feel when a big person talked to you as though your feelings and opinions truly mattered?

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  1. Chelsey @ Brown Eyed Basics

    This is such great advice. I don’t have kids, but I love being around them, and I’ve found the best way to develop rapport with them is not to talk to them like they’re babies. Even in behavioral issues, speaking to them with respect goes a long, long way.

    Chelsey @ Brown Eyed Basics’s last blog post…A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Weight Watchers

    • Danielle LaPorte

      yes, yes…we had a no baby talk policy in our house. Of course, there’s plenty of funny made up words and silliness – but generally, I find “normal talk” makes for “chilled and happy.”

      Danielle LaPorte’s last blog post…Your Truth Is In Your Desires

  2. littlebrownpen

    This is very good advice, and a nice little reminder for those of us who forget it when tantrums, whining and screaming are the menu of the day.

  3. Jeri

    This is something for me to hang onto and remember at work. I try to practice it anyway, but your post is a great reminder.

  4. Anita

    How wonderfully put and something that I think most people (including myself) would do good to think about and put into practice! Thanks for the reminder that kids are just little adults.

    Anita’s last blog post…Just a little ramblin’…well, maybe ranting

    • Danielle LaPorte

      …just little adults…yes. And I often remind myself that they’re just as intelligent – on their own level. Like, most kids don’t miss a thing – their hearing is just as good as ours, their intuition is usually even more acute (until society wears it out of them…) So I’m always keeping in the back of my mind…”they’re picking up on everything.”

      Danielle LaPorte’s last blog post…Your Truth Is In Your Desires

  5. Rachel

    This is brilliant, and so important to me. The words we speak have a lot of influence — they can cause hurt, or be uplifting and cherished. And why not show children how significant they are with the words we speak to them? I love it, thank you.

    Rachel’s last blog post…Hot Chocolate Recipe to Start the Season, and Other Favorite Drinks

  6. Kyndale Pease

    This is so completely true. It reminds me of so many people that put their kids in “time outs”. Kids areen’t really able to verbalize how they are feeling. Usually when my kids are really acting out, it’s because they are getting sick or tired. I try to think about that. If I was sad or getting sick or just plain tired I wouldn’t want my family to disregard my feelings and say “go to your room, you are in time out!!”

    • Danielle LaPorte

      I’m with you, all the way. The closest we get to a time out is me saying, “do you need to take a break or do something different?” and usually if I can get my boy (or visiting kids) to switch gears (pick out a book, sit and have some milk, get a new toy,) then that’s all that needs to happen. Being punished for being maxed out just doesn’t make sense to me…

      Danielle LaPorte’s last blog post…Your Truth Is In Your Desires

  7. Tara

    Couldn’t agree more!

  8. Dianne - Bunny Trails

    Excellent post. Along those lines, I’ve been pondering why it is that we can so easily speak rudely and disrespectfully to our family members (sometimes especially our children), yet we have no problem maintaining self-control when speaking to people outside of our homes. We ought never treat strangers or acquaintances better than the family whom we love dearly.

    Thank you for this wonderful reminder.

    Dianne – Bunny Trails’s last blog post…Hear That?

  9. Michelle

    So true! What a good reminder to be mindful of what we say, to our children, and everyone.

    Michelle’s last blog post…Happy Thanksgiving

  10. BreannaS

    I am a preschool teacher and I have been saying that to parents and other teachers for years. Thank you for reaffirming my beliefs about communicating with children.

    BreannaS’s last blog post…Make and Take

  11. Gracia

    Thank you thank you thank you for this post. I don’t have kids, but I hope to remember this for when I have them. Wonderful advice.

    Gracia’s last blog post…Zucchini – Potato Fritatta

  12. Eric

    The other day I managed to keep my girlfriends younger cousing away from his PSP for the whole day. I don’t know who of us had more fun. As children take adults as their models, they imitate what they see, they want to be treated as adults. I gave him some books and somehow by that created some interest in him to read them. I explained him several ideas of the book and said he had to tell me the story the next time we meet (probably this weekend).
    You can visit a related post on our blog under this link:

    Eric’s last blog post…Zucchini – Potato Fritatta

  13. Amy G.

    I so clearly remember being “talked down to” as a child, and it was terribly annoying and immediately set me against the adult who was doing it. Fast forward this many years, and here I am doing the same thing. Thank you for the reminder.

    Amy G.’s last blog post…Let’s try this again

  14. Sally McEntire

    I love this! It just kills me when I hear someone tell a hurt child “you’re fine.” I know I don’t always say the right things, but I try really hard to treat children with respect and validate their feelings. Thank you so much for the reminder.

    Sally McEntire’s last blog post…I Am Super Ninja!

    • Danielle LaPorte

      what actually prompted me to write this was a scene at our community pool. A father was swimming with his baby girl, about a year and a half old. And she was shivering and crying. And he was saying, “Oh come on, you’re fine. You’re okaaaay.” She wasn’t okay. She was cold and scared, understandably. And he thought he was doing the right thing, understandably. We do what’s been done to us until we know better…

      Danielle LaPorte’s last blog post…Your Truth Is In Your Desires

  15. genesee

    Very true.

  16. organicyogamom

    Wow! Thank you for that beautiful reminder. I like to think I’m doing okay in this department but reading this makes me realize I can be better! Way better! I will be passing the words onto my moms at yoga classes.

  17. Kate

    Gosh, I never really thought about it that way! And how rude I’ve probably been to my sweet little girl…I’m definitely going to make a big effort to change! 🙂

    Kate’s last blog post…Don’t Take After the Government

  18. Liz@VioletPosy

    What a great article. I totally agree, I always talk to children as if they are their own person with feelings. My daughter is now 5 and when she comes home grumpy from school we sit and discuss it like it was a day at work and I try and we discuss what happened and what’s annoyed/frustrated her. Whereas many people I know just tell their kid to behave but have no idea what’s happened to make the child angry in the first place.

    Liz@VioletPosy’s last blog post…Emma Bridgewater & Cath Kidston Bargains

    • Danielle LaPorte

      this reminds me of something Stephen Covey once told me at a workshop…he credits the fact that his marriage works (I think he’s been married for a 100 years to his wife, and they have like, 50 kids, anyway…) he credits their success to the fact that they don’t just talk about what happened for each of them during the day – they talk about how they FELT about what happened to each of them during the day. It’s the feeling-tune in that keeps things alive. Same works for kiddles, I think.

      Danielle LaPorte’s last blog post…Your Truth Is In Your Desires

  19. Mia Hysteria

    Thank you for writing this. Sometimes we need a change in perspective…or to put ourselves in check. I know there are people who do this to my daughter. I will try to help her around this in the future.

  20. Emily L.

    So I totally took this and emailed it to a certain family member who is ALWAYS talking this way to my oldest daughter. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I needed this one!

  21. Alison

    I still remember how frustrating adults were when I was a child. I used to have to fight to have myself heard, and it often really stressed me out. It may not be obvious in parenting, but if you’re not respectful, chances are, you won’t get any respect in return. I used to agonize at the way the majority of adults would talk down to me, like I had nothing to say. I could see their eyes glaze over and their vocabulary dumb down. Even in adulthood, I can see that they weren’t really listening.

    One day, your children are still going to remember when you talked down to them, when you just didn’t listen, and when you behaved as though their feelings or opinions were invalid. If you treat a child with exasperation or disrespect in return for their feelings, chances are, they’re going to have more and more trouble communicating with you. Which, in later years, can become a much bigger deal.

  22. Stacy (mama-om)

    Hello — thank you for this heartfelt and succinct post. I could not agree with you more and have found my parenting journey to be all about digging down deep into respect — for my children, myself, and all beings.

    I discovered your site through Simple Mom earlier this week and like some of your posts over there about parenting, too.

    Simply lovely — thank you!

    Stacy (mama-om)’s last blog post…This is not a napkin

  23. Maha

    I completely agree. It kills me when people do this with my kids, because kids do get it, even if they can’t always articulate it. This past summer there was a very minor incident at a family member’s house. I was trying to keep my just-turned-3 son from doing something that would have been a bother to my sister-in-law. I was trying to explain to him what and why I needed him to do, and my sister-in-law spoke over me to him and lied. He looked at her with a really confused look, because he knew the truth. I could almost see his little brain saying “why are you lying to me, it doesn’t match the truth”. I finally told her that he knew what was going on already. I don’t know why people lie to kids. I almost always tell them the truth, especially when they ask, and even if I’d rather not discuss it, like last month: my older son asked more pointedly how babies are made, which I explained in more detail than in prior discussions. My husband got mildly annoyed and thought he was too young (he’ll be 6 next month). I asked my husband what I should have told him. He didn’t have a good answer. My feeling was that if my son was asking, he wanted to know. It’s hard, but I think we have to be honest with them too, which really is part of not talking down to them.

  24. tony thomas

    who has more experience parents or kids? who knows what is right parents or kids?

  25. Sarah Schneider

    Great post and great comments in response! I have recently just begun working with kids. I taught in an after school program at an elementary school and am now in an early ed environment working with kids age 3 mos. to kindergarden. I have always believed that the only difference between kids and adults is, simply, that they don’t have the bank of consequential-based experiences that we have. Theirs are more immediate and short term, while ours are forged and tempered from a longer line of life-experiences. Kids of every age respond positively to adults who they percieve to be genuinely interested in them and their lives. They can see right through BS. Adults who interact and engage with them and show interest and concern in their world will always have the best relationships with kids. Empathetic, not enabling, makes them stronger as people.

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