Article – Declarative Language

Parenting can be challenging, especially when your child feels overwhelmed by the weight of expectations, of exams and socially with peers.

One powerful tool that you can use is something called ‘declarative language’.

Let’s explore this a little more …

  1. Understanding Declarative Language:

Research conducted by Carlson and Moses (2001) has shown that using declarative language, which focuses on providing information or stating facts rather than giving orders, can have a positive impact on children’s emotional well-being. By adopting this approach, you create an environment that encourages open dialogue and mutual understanding.

Example: Instead of saying, “You must finish your homework right now,” you can use declarative language by saying, “Homework is an important task that helps you learn and grow. Let’s find a time that works best for you, would that be OK?”

  1. Non-Threatening Communication:

Research suggests that non-threatening communication styles, such as declarative language, promote a sense of safety and security (Carson, 2016). By avoiding direct commands that can trigger anxiety, you create a more supportive and comfortable atmosphere for your child.

Example: Instead of saying, “It’s not a big deal – stop worrying so much,” you can use declarative language by saying, “I understand that you have concerns. Let’s talk about what’s worrying you and see if we can find solutions together.”

  1. Providing Clear Information:

Clear and concise information helps children better understand their environment and reduces distress and anxiety (Bunn et al., 2019). By providing them with the necessary information, you empower your child to make informed decisions and feel more in control.

Example: Instead of saying, “Just trust me, everything will be fine,” you can use declarative language by saying, “I know it can be scary, but let me explain the steps we’re taking to keep you safe. We these in place to help and support you.”

  1. Empathy and Validation:

Empathetic responses and validation play a significant role in supporting your child through challenging times. Research conducted by Morelen et al. (2016) highlights that these approaches promote emotional well-being and strengthen the parent-child relationship.

Example: Instead of saying, “Don’t be so sensitive and overreactive,” you can use declarative language by saying, “I can see that this situation is making you feel upset. It’s okay to feel that way, and I’m here to listen and help when you’re ready.”

  1. Providing Options and Suggestions:

Offering choices and suggestions, rather than imposing decisions, fosters autonomy and reduces anxiety in children (Soenens & Vansteenkiste, 2010). By allowing your child to participate in decision-making, you empower them and help alleviate the pressure they feel.

Example: Instead of saying, “You have do a club after school this term,” you can use declarative language by saying, “You’ll have fun with your friends after school. Did you want to have a look through the different options to see which one you like the best?”

  1. Clarifying Misunderstandings:

Clarifying information and providing additional details are essential in reducing anxiety in children (Woolley et al., 2011). By addressing misunderstandings and ensuring clear comprehension, you help your child feel more confident and secure.

Example: Instead of saying, “You should know this already,” you can use declarative language by saying,  “Let’s go over this together. I’ll chunk it – because it’s a lot to take in. Everyone learns in their own way and that’s okay.”

Other examples include:

  • Verbs that talk about the thinking process: think, wonder, know, remember, forget, decide, and imagine.
  • Observational words that relate to senses: notice, hear, see, smell and feel.
  • Words or phrases that communicate emotion: I’m not sure, I like, I don’t like, I feel happy, silly, excited, afraid, nervous, embarrassed, or upset.
  • First person pronouns such asI, we or us.
  • Words of uncertainty or possibility: maybe, might, possibly, perhaps and sometimes.”

Ultimately, give declarative language a go and see what happens – it can take a little time to get into the habit of changing how things are said, but if you stick at it you’ll begin to see a change in how your child responds.

Sources:

  • Murphy. L., 2015 in Alford, E., The Importance of Declarative Language, RDI Connect Community Blog, Jun 28, 2017

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