A Toolbox of Helpful Phrases for Parents and Other Caregivers

This is entry 5 of the blogchain TBRI.


Words are powerful tools to help get kids back on the right track. So it’s helpful to have a toolbox of reliable phrases you can turn to again and again when responding to behavior problems or potential behavior problems.

The following phrases are recommended and modeled by Karen Purvis in these TBRI training videos, especially Chapter 4. Watch them if you can because it’s helpful to see these words used in real life.

I’ve separated them into engagement-types, but don’t be rigid. Many can be used in multiple categories, so be curious and try things. And remember to keep your relationship goals in mind in addition to your behavioral goals.

Level 1 (Playful Engagement) Words

  • “Would you please try that again with respect?”
  • “Let me see your eyes.”
  • “Give me eyes.”
  • “Try nice words.”
  • “Can you try that again?”
  • “Would you like a redo?”
  • “With respect.”
  • “Gentle and kind.”
  • “Use your words.”
  • “Are you asking or telling?”
  • “What do you need?”
  • “How’s your engine running, buddy?”

Level 2 (Structured Engagement) Words

  • “Sweetheart, you have two choices…”
  • “Sweetheart, if you’re asking for a compromise you need to do it with good words.”
  • “No hurts.”
  • “Listen and obey.”
  • “Can you calm your engine on your own or do you need help?”
  • “What did you do wrong? How could you do it right?”

Level 3 (Calming Engagement) Words

  • “Let’s (get and ice cream cone/do some art/take a nice walk) and talk about this.”
  • “You need to think about what you did wrong and how you can do it right. When you’re ready. You say ready. I’ll be right here.”
Christopher Chelpka @christopherchelpka