“I” Messages for You and Your Child

by Rebeccah Minazadeh

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Life can be frustrating for children who do not have the tools or language to recognize their feelings and express themselves. Communication skills are essential ways to help children build their resiliency and cope with many different situations. “I” statements are a powerful resource for you and a beloved child in your life to speak up for himself, be assertive, and create healthy boundaries. Healthy boundaries teach your child that he/she can own his/her feelings and are not controlled by others. “I” statements are also great tools for conflict resolution, as they protect the child from language that is blaming and shaming. Here is a quick exercise that is appropriate for children of all ages.

  1. Begin by identifying how you feel. Say your feeling;

I feel sad, angry, afraid…

  1. Next, choose a set of words that demonstrate why you feel the way that you do, and describe the person’s action. Say why the action affects you.

When you… because that…

  1. And finally, end with a description of what you want/need to improve the situation:

I would like, I would appreciate, I want…

Example: your little brother makes a mess of the bedroom you share. Your mother gets home, takes one look at the room, and immediately blames you.

  • “I” message: “Mom, I feel frustrated when you blame me, because I’m getting scolded for something I didn’t do. I need you to ask me what happened.

Example: You loaned your bike to Tyler so he could go home and get his baseball glove. When he returned you noticed that the front fender was bent and the light was cracked.

  • “I” message: “Tyler, I feel angry when you break my bike and ignore me because now I have to fix it myself. I want you to take responsibility for getting my bike fixed.”

“I” statements will work for you and your child. Seeing you actively own and express your feelings will help a child in your life to learn what he/she is feeling, to build strong boundaries, and enjoy healthy and loving relationships. For more on communicating effectively, visit Chapter 3 of RESILIENT CHILDREN.

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