What to Say to Your Child Instead of 'Go to Your Room!' (And Why That Phrase Is So Problematic)
When you were younger, you used to hate it when your parents sent you to your room and swore that you would never, ever, ever do the same to your own kids. Fast forward a few decades later and your little kid is behaving like an absolute terror, leaving you no choice but to, well, send them to their room.
And so, it’s history repeating itself—your kid absolutely hates it and if you’re being honest, you don’t feel great about it either. But what if there was another way to give your child—and yourself—some much-needed distance, without the punitive nature of a room-sentence.
We recently stumbled upon an Instagram video from Dr. Siggie Cohen, a psychologist specializing in child development, and it may just be the game-changer we’re looking for.
First of all, let’s talk about what’s happening with you when you feel the urge to scream “go to your room.” Chances are that in that moment, you’re feeling pretty annoyed (or even extremely pissed off). It’s perfectly OK to feel that way, Dr. Siggie reassures us. “But anger and frustration are not effective parenting tools.” she says. “They lead you to react impulsively and use tactics like shame and guilt.”
Now let’s talk about what happens to your kid when you tell them this. As you likely remember from your own childhood, they’re not going to use that time for self-reflection or thinking about what they could have done differently. “Instead, your child will spend their time alone feeling blamed…and mostly, feeling angry with you,” explains Dr. Siggie. Still, this doesn’t mean you should let crappy behavior go unnoticed. Dr. Siggie offers an alternative that gets rid of the shame factor, while encouraging introspection. Here’s what the psychologist suggests you say instead:
“Whoa, what just happened…not OK at all. We both need to think about it. So, we’re going to take a break from each other. Then when we come back together I will tell you what I thought about what happened and you tell me what you thought, and together we will decide what to do better next time.”
You’re still giving your child the time and space to think about what they did, but rather than blaming them (“let’s talk about what you did”), you’re shifting the tone away from blame (“let’s talk about what happened”). This creates more space for contemplation.
You’re also involving your child in problem solving, a skill that will serve them well into the teenage years and beyond. And that’s not all: “You’re modeling collaboration and working through conflict in an emotionally regulated, responsive way,” Dr. Siggie adds. Finally, you’re empowering your child to self-reflect on their own behavior… and hey, that’s no small feat.