The Power of Positive Words
When you speak in a firm voice and avoid threats, kids tend to cooperate better.
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.
Another thing to remember is that it’s always better to use as few words as possible. Kids are simple. They don’t need long explanations as to why they shouldn’t pinch each other. They know it hurts. If you want to explain it to them, do so when you have their full attention and they’re interested in listening. At the moment when you want them to stop, tell them to stop by instructing them to do something else. Be brief and very specific. When I told my daughter to “walk away” she knew exactly what I wanted her to do. If I told her to “stop arguing with the boy” she might look at me and wonder what she should be doing instead. Also, by asking her to walk away, I didn’t engage a stranger’s child nor did I assume either was to blame for the conflict. If your child is pulling his brother’s hair and you tell him to stop, he might stop for a moment, then just do it again. Saying something like “put your hands in your pockets” may solve the problem. If you don’t have any idea of what you want to say, but you need to stop the behavior, have your kids put their hands in their pockets, at their sides, or even on their heads. They might think you’re crazy, but it can stop the behavior and give you a moment to think of the next instruction.
Finally, I do believe the word “stop” can be used in a positive manner. When your child is doing something that you want them to stop doing immediately, the first thing you can say is “STOP!” Say it firmly and loudly if necessary. Get your child’s attention quickly this way and then, give him a brief instruction. If you are walking at the park and your child is walking too far ahead ask him to “stop,” and then follow with “stay next to me” or “hold my hand.” Remember, simple, brief, and positive commands will usually yield the most positive results.
That’s it for now. I hope you’ve enjoyed the show. Thank you for listening.
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This is your friend the Mighty Mommy wishing you happy and fun parenting!