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The Power of Positive Words

When you speak in a firm voice and avoid threats, kids tend to cooperate better.

By
Cherylyn Feierabend,
May 31, 2008
Episode #067

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Hey there! You’re listening to the Mighty Mommy with some quick and dirty tips for practical parenting.

Last week I was reminded of a topic that I had wanted to cover very early on in this podcast, yet somehow, I had never done so. I was visiting a public play area with my kids. I noticed my daughter was having a disagreement with another child. There wasn’t any physical behavior involved, but it looked like one of them was about to strike. I called to my daughter and once I had her attention I said, “Walk away.” It was a very simple two-word command. It was firm, but it neither threatened nor blamed. It just gave an easy-to-understand instruction. There was a grandma at the play area with her grandkids and she told me that she’d overheard what I’d said and she was going to start saying that to her grandkids in similar situations. I took that as a compliment and as a reminder to talk about the power of positive words.

Do you ever find yourself saying things like, “Don’t hit your sister” or “Don’t pull your brother’s hair”? I do. Then I have to remember that the kids don’t hear the word “don’t.” My kids were in a pre-school exercise class where the teacher was passing out little foam paddles with balls. Instead of telling the children that the paddles were for hitting the balls only, she told the kids (and to my horror demonstrated) “don’t hit your friends with the paddles, like this.” You can bet that every kid in that class got a nice foamy paddle whack to the head. Using negative words like “don’t pinch” and “no hitting” seems to remind kids what types of negative behaviors are available to them. So, I recommend using positive words. “Walk away.” “Go play in your room.” “Let go of his hair.” It’s a very simple technique and works amazingly well for me. When you speak in a firm voice and avoid threats, kids tend to cooperate better. When they’re given easy instructions instead of threats or loud demands, kids won’t feel as though they are pushing your buttons. If their actions are negative-attention driven, positive commands won’t give them the desired reaction, and they will have to make a choice. If they obey, then reward them by thanking them for listening. You appreciate it and you should let them know.

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