Mom Phrases

By unscientific estimate these are currently my most-used mom-phrases:

  • Low voice.
  • Swallow before you talk.
  • Knees under the table.

I love how they are examples of the economy of language, and the extra elements that come from having story and/or experience behind them.


“Low-voice” came out of a conversation I overheard in high school. The mother of a friend described a woman with an in-home daycare who had a passel of preschoolers and no high-pitched squeals or auditory explotions because she consciously emphasized this concept of “low voice,” teaching both pitch and volume.

Children really can learn to control their voices.

Granted, personality plays a role: Melody has the hardest time with this of any of my children.  Even so, she knows and has proven the capacity to control her volume– with cuing. Her difficulty is the punch of an opening: it just explodes out of her with all her joie de vivre.

My favorite application of this is when my children are engaged in some crazy-wild child’s play and “scream” and “yell” in intensity-modulated voices.  It doesn’t always work without reminders (as I write this I’m reminding the kids to control their play-noise), but the reality is that asking or requiring self-control over voices is not unreasonable and actually can work.


Swallow before you Speak still makes me smile when I say it.

When we first got to this stage of parenting (when children can both feed themselves and speak) I used the tried-and-true Don’t talk with your mouth full.  But the kids took it literally and, well, emptied their mouths when they had something too important to wait to say.


Knees under the table.

This is our latest acquisition, and it does so much it’s already topped my list.

You see, if your knees are under the table, you’re at the table. You’re close enough to eat over your plate/bowl, (the required position for little children) and you’re interacting over the table rather than chair to chair.

I don’t know about other families, but this precludes the majority of our table-time and food/mess issues.


We have other phrases too, but these are the ones I was thinking of today– phrases that don’t seem to lose their usefulness by repetition.

I know those who think having to repeat yourself is a sign of poor or ineffective training, and that can be true. But I subscribe more to the model that parenting (in part at least) is about carving neural pathways, and I believe that repetition is one of the tools of that.

This is why I like consistent phrases. After a while they have a track playing in their little heads and I don’t need to say it as much.

Case in point: On our way home from anywhere I used to rehearse with the children what we would do when we arrived. Now all I do is ask, “What do we do when we get home?” “Wash hands!” comes the chorus from the back seat.

And lately they’ve been the ones initiating the ritual in the car, and following through without being reminded.  I count that a parenting success.

What are your favorite parenting phrases?

Do you use them yourself or just like the idea?

One thought on “Mom Phrases

  1. Mom Teena says:

    Hold your horses! (Meaning “be patient”)

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