When my kids were toddlers (1982-1988) I don’t recall ever hearing this phrase used to encourage children to verbalize rather than use my son’s favorite method, pointing and grunting. Nowadays, you hear the phrase “Use your words” coming from the lips of every young mother, teacher and comedian across the land. So when did this become a “thing” and who started it?
I did pre-school setting workstudy turn of the milennium, and it was in use by then.
I’m not sure I’ve ever consciously heard it from an authority on the subject (e.g. daycare, parenting book or blog). But I definitely say it to my 2 1/2 year old. There is only so many times you get asked “What’s that?” accompanied by vague pointing in the direction of the cat/tree/car/hot air balloon before you need a little more description (what colour, shape, noise etc) so it feels fairly natural to me. I’m pretty sure my Mum’s used it with my daughter as well, and she did her early years parenting in the 70s.
I never heard this usage before fairly recently, although the concept was well-formed. My mother refused to respond to a child’s request that consisted of pointing and grunting or whining, and I believe her response was “Tell me what you want.” Same idea, different vocabulary.
The first time I heard that phrase was in the movie Stepmon. If I recall correctly, the character played by Susan Sarandon uses it when the kids are calling the Julia Roberts character names. I always thought it was a weird thing to say, since they were using words, just not particularly nice ones.
I do remember it from my kids younger years 2 decades ago but for me the repeated phrase was “We look with our eyes not our fingers”
I think I’ve heard ‘use words’ going far back. The variation ‘use your words’ maybe not so much.
I’d heard of it as meaning “don’t hit”, as in, “use your words to express your frustration and talk out your problems instead of beating up the other kid”. Although the “don’t point and grunt” version sounds a lot less hippy.
I just checked Google Groups (Usenet) and the earliest hits of “use your words” in context seem to be in 2002. Given that it’s less likely to be used in print than orally, the supposition that it started to be commonly used a couple of years before that seems reasonable.
My mom used it with my brother (born 1988)
The first tiem I rememebr seeing it was in (Dr.?) Sal Severe’s book. * How to Behave so Your Children Will Too * Late 90’s, I think.
It’s also the first place I heard about “redirection.”
It was one of the first books about child-rearing that “rang true” for me. Most of them were so manipulative and hierarchical. This was the first one I read that seemed to understand - children are going to act like you act - and it’s often unflattering.
I’ve used “use words” with my son, but I would often just grunt right back at him until he got the point. It led to some scintillating conversations.
Me: Mmm mmm.
Him: Mmm mmm MMM mmm oof!
Me: Yes, honey?
Him: I want a cookie.
Use “your” words? I can’t say I’ve ever heard it. “Use words”, or more bluntly just “talk!” would be the expected admonition to a child who communicated only in non-verbal form or grunting. “Your words” sounds like a reminder of a sworn oath one has taken.
Even then I’ve heard it infrequently; the period where a child is capable of speech but might be afraid or unwilling to talk (while still communicating otherwise) is generally pretty short, a few months between the ages of about 2 and 3 (+/- a few months either way), and well before school age. Hearing it “from every young mother, teacher and comedian” is far beyond my experience (and I’m a parent to 3 children, the youngest now 8 years old), even counting day care workers as “teachers”, unless you work as a speech therapist.
(“Comedian”? What comedian’s routine involves tellilng someone to use words?)
I know my sister used it with my niece when she was a small child. That goes back to about 1996 or so. I’m sure she wasn’t the first.
This is super cute. I’ve been mining the Dope for possible parenting techniques and I’m going to file this for later.
I first heard it at D18 Jr’s daycare ca. 1989. I remember thinking it sounded a touch twee.
I used the phrase with my kids, and my oldest was born in 1989. I don’t recall where I’d have heard it; I didn’t spend a whole lot of time with kids until I had one.
This is exactly the sort of thing I would do when my kids were little. I’m almost positive I’ve even employed it re: cookies. At least with my son, my daughter on the other hand, was very fond of talking at a very early age, so I don’t remember having to try and make her communicate with words.
It’s a fun way to get the point across.
It’s used a lot on Grey’s Anatomy in the first couple seasons, I picked it up from there.
I want to say I’ve seen it used towards other adults if someone had just gotten too flustered to speak clearly. Usually in a half-mocking tone.