Own Your Feelings With “I” Statements

background freedigitalphotos.netThis morning I was loading my toddler into the car and he was crying over not getting his way (shocking, right?). I caught myself after saying “You make mommy feel sad when you cry like that.

Can you figure out why I didn’t like how I said that?

What’s wrong with this statement?

I believe words can be very powerful, especially when we use them on a regular basis. When I told my son that he MAKES ME FEEL sad, I am implying he has some sort of control over my feelings. In a way, it’s placing blame on him for his mom’s feelings. Bad news!

What should I have said?

Benefits of Using I-Statements in Communication

  • Practicing and Teaching Boundaries: Healthy boundaries means that I own my own thoughts and feelings. Other people do not control my thoughts and feelings and I don’t control the thoughts and feelings of others. This is an important and valuable lesson for my kids, as welll as maintaining my own psychological health. Boundaries are so important I am working on a blog post devoted to this very topic.
  • Improves communication and conflict resolution: Using I-statements keeps the person you are communicating with from being on the defense. You will be better able to resolve conflict using I-statements, rather than stating “you did this” and “you did that!”
  • Great for all ages and communication levels. You can use this communication technique with anyone and any age. The example I gave above involved communication with my toddler and you can’t get any more basic that that!
How To Use I-Statements:

Start by identifying your feelings- mad, sad, frustrated, etc.

I feel …

State the reason you feel this way or what happened that led you to those feelings.

When …

Try to identify the reason you the person’s actions led to those feelings for you.


Let the person know what you want instead.

I would like…


Your spouse snaps at you during dinner and it really hurt your feelings. Here’s an I-statement to use with this scenario:

I feel hurt

When you snap at me like that

Because I worked hard to cook this nice dinner for us.

I would like you to use nicer words and tone with me, and to know if something happened today that has led you to be in a bad mood.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Just like anything else, the more you practice I-statements, the better you will become at this very effective communication tool. Use this technique with your friends, family, spouse, and kids. You can also make learning fun with a game!

Use your I’s is one of my favorite therapeutic games. I play this with my younger clients and families and I also recommend this game for parents to play with their kids. You can buy it online at Childtherapytoys.com. The players draw from a stack of cards with various scenarious that challenges the player to identify how they would feel in that scenario and turn it into an I statement. It is a great tool for teaching 1. Feeling identification, 2. Turning these feelings goointo an I statement, and 3. Role playing to practice the communication tool.

More good references on this subject:




So, go out and use your I’s today! 🙂

You May Also Like:

Simple and Effective Tips For Meeting Your Goals

Using Signs To Teach Your Toddler About Feelings

Determining Natural Consequences for Inappropriate/Unwanted Behaviors

Author: Kim Peterson, MA, LPC-S, RPT

Kim is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Clinical Supervisor, and Registered Play Therapist in Dallas, Texas.

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