One Liners for Respectful Parents in a Pinch


by Daniella Rabbani, Honest motherhood contributor

I try my best to treat Ness with the respect I would pay any other human being regardless of age. (That doesn’t mean I give him reverence or authority. That would just be a bad idea. Kids need strong leaders.) Fun perk: Since about 16 months, Ness has been saying, “Thank you, Welcome Mommy!” for just about every nice gesture I make. And I’ve never taught him to say that. He’s just modeling respectful behavior. 

That said, sometimes when caught off-guard by “bad” behavior or a sticky social situation, my brain stalls + I draw a blank. Conventional wisdom would have me bark at my kid, call him names like bad and mean, or ignore him. Exhausting!

So here are some respectful responses to draw from so you can at least look like you’re maintaining your cool.

(Note that I refer to myself as I or me and not mommy and also that I’m an actor so scripts really work for me in a pinch! I hope this is helpful to you, too!) 


“I can’t let you hit me. I see you’re frustrated but I can’t let you hit me.”


“I can’t let you hit Sammy. I see how happy you are but I can’t let you hit.”

“Sammy, I’m sorry.” (Sammy’s mom tends to Sammy.)

“My sweetheart, I need you to be gentle with Sammy’s body OK?” (Then move on.)


“We’re all learning.” (Big hug to my kid). “It’s a process and we’re all here to learn.” (Move on.) 


“Oh sweet boy, I don’t think Sammy was done playing with that.” (Pause. It’s really OK if kids cry for a sec while this gets sorted out. As long as the adults chill + don’t make too big a deal here. It’s really not a big deal.)

“Can you please hand the doll back over to Sammy? You want the doll and Sammy wants the doll. Looks like we should play with these trucks instead. I’ll go ahead and put the doll in a quick time out.”

“I saw you really wanted that doll. Next time, let’s practice being more gentle with Sammy’s body. Instead of taking it out of his hand, ask Sammy, wouldja?”"


“I need a second to myself. Here’s a book to read for a moment while I collect myself.” (And then leave. If the kid freaks out, upon return…)

“I heard you were upset about my leaving the room for a moment. I needed a second to myself. Sometimes people just need a moment to themselves.”


Here’s the thing: when it comes to taking turns or whatever - toddlers aren’t trying to be possessive or mean. They’re just being toddlers. It’s so much more stressful for me to freak out on my kid, and apologize to my new mom friend, than to just accept that this is normal albeit kinda embarrassing behavior. 

They’re not acting this way because we’re bad parents. They’re acting this way because they’re new to this world and social dynamics are tricky at any age and stage. Now at least, we can go into play dates with a game plan if a learning opportunity arises. For them and for us. 

Cause you guys, big reveal here - this is not about them. It’s about us. And our need to be accepted. Totally cool, but definitely time to grow outta those limiting beliefs. What better time than now. On the playground. With Cheerios splattered on the ground and maybe some spit up in our hair from the newborn.

Do you find yourself using similar one-liners? How do you handle these sticky situations with your toddlers?

Daniella Rabbani is a Brooklyn based actress and the honest motherhood contributor to the MU community. Her full time gig is mama to Ness. 

Featured photo via Rylee + Cru on Smallable