Why is “find your words” an example of unhelpful encouragement?


I appreciate it’s likely that your intention is to support your child with moving through a difficult situation.  However, I wonder, if you were struggling with feelings, would someone saying that to you enable you to express what you are feeling any easier?

Look, no judgement intended.  It’s another aspect of when we get caught with understanding our want to better understand what’s happening for them, instead of appreciating that if they could have used their words, in that moment, they would have.

The consequences of this type of encouragement, especially in little kids, is that they are likely to feel judged and misunderstood.  Then depending on your child’s own behaviour style and meanings already created this can end up going in the opposite direction to your intention.  Where instead of finding words, they become more upset, and the whole resolution gets lost in the process.

When we are focused on trying to help our child/ren with navigating difficult situations, whether due to high emotions or our own discomfort, we can end up creating a fresh problem while trying to get a solution for the current one.


As adults, amongst the challenges that we have to learn how to manage is that what we know is possible may not yet be in the capability or capacity of our child either yet, or in this moment in time.

For many parents, the expression comes with genuine desire to support our child to take the next step to move through their emotional challenge.  For others the statement is a reflection of the level of frustration that we have, and we just want to get to the answer so that the situation is over.

The opportunity in those moments is to first pause.  Before saying anything, give yourself a moment to consider, will what I’m about to say be helpful?  Who will it help?

Without conscious awareness, we are usually wanting to solve our problem, ie the not knowing.  In those moments we feel helpless, so our survival instinct kicks in, and instead of appreciating our child has a problem, we go into trying to solve our problem first.

The best result comes when we accept if we solve our child’s problem first,

that ours is generally solved in the process.

This can be where our childhood programming trips us up.  For many of us, our concerns were treated as secondary.  No matter how caring and supportive our parents were, they thought they need to solve all the problems.  In the process we learned that our thoughts and feelings were not important.  Not anyone’s intention, it’s the way little human’s process their world.

It’s the effect of the unknown unknown.  Adults didn’t know that children process their worlds different.  Children didn’t have all the software to consider processing differently.

Children do not have the capability to process for intentions.  Even many adults have challenges with interpreting for intentions, reading between the lines of what is and isn’t said. 

Everything only has the meaning that we give it.  All humans process their world based on the meanings that have already been created.  It’s one of the big trip hazards in building effective communication, is that we don’t know what other people make things mean.  We can only ever know what we make things mean, unless we ask.



The problem then is that most of us don’t seek clarity, because we either assume we already know, or we are too afraid that we might be right with our own assumption, that our own fear of judgement prevents us from enquiring and seeking clarity.

The opportunity is to accept that we also might be wrong in our assumption.  To trust that even if we are right, we can cope with the response or feedback.

When we avoid focusing on concerns about ourselves first, we become much more effective at building healthy and functional relationships.  The kind that are built in trust and mutual respect.  It’s appreciating that trust and respect are earned.  We earn it by how we treat the other party.  What I mean is, when we treat another with respect, they can learn to trust us.  This applies to all relationships in our lives, with our children, with our partner, with peers and parents.  That then leads to a greater ability to influence outcomes.

Also appreciate that many adults never received the opportunity to learn about the fundamentals of building trust and respect.  With other adults, their responses or reactions are not our responsibility to change.  Sure, we can express our boundary, though judging theirs is a boundary violation.

With our children, what they need is our support to learn how to navigate through developing healthy boundaries.  They can only learn from how we model this with them.  What that means is, through us having healthy clear personal boundaries, that respects their right to have theirs, even when we may not agree with them and be willing or able to accept them.

The importance of Validating their feelings, regardless of their behaviour or words. 

Empathise with the right to express their feelings, (depending on the situation, potential express our boundary in a functional and resourceful manner) and

be curious about their concerns.  What’s happening for them!

It’s not always easy, and it’s how we become emotionally intelligent adults, capable of building effective relationships and disagreeing resourceful.



If you are in the trenches raising kids and

not always sure whether there are better ways,

then come join us in

Conscious Wholehearted Parenting

where we are accepting our humanness

so that we can be even better models for our kids.

Author – Leanne G Wakeling – Relationship and Communication Coach, Parenting Mentor, Behaviour and Thinking Styles Profiler.