Using Positive Language with Kids

“No throwing toys!”

“Don’t climb on there!”

“Stop touching that!”

Does it ever feel like your day is spent using a stream of negatives with your child? Phrases that begin with No.Don’t.Stop seem to roll off the tongue all too easy when parenting young children. Children are driven by a highly impulsive curiosity. They want to touch everything…especially the things they see their parents touching/using all the time. Additionally children have an innate desire to climb, jump, spin, run, etc. In other words, they need to move all.the.time! Combine the need to touch everything with the need to move their bodies constantly, it’s no wonder we get caught up in a cycle of no.don’t.stop with our children. I know I often find myself engaging in these types of exchanges with my children daily or *gulp* even hourly. However it simply does not feel good to be harping on the kids all day about the things they cannot do; actually it feels pretty crummy. Therefore I try to replace the no.don’t.stop with more positive language. For example:

  • Instead of saying “No hitting” saying “Use gentle hands
  • Instead of saying “Don’t climb on the counter” saying “Please keep your feet on the floor
  • Instead of saying “Stop running off” saying “Stay close to me
  • Instead of “Don’t ride your scooter through the house spreading the pile of packing peanuts I just swept up all over the place” saying “Please take your scooter outside

While this seemingly appears to be only a minor or subtle shift in how we talk to our children, it has a huge impact! I like that it focuses on what a child CAN do verses what they cannot do. I feel better/calmer when I speak to my children this way and they seem more responsive to me. Young children are still learning to process language so a direction of what to do (versus what not to do) is easier for them to follow. Furthermore our words are extraordinarily powerful in affecting our mood and the mood of those around us. Using positive language inspires a happy, brighter mood for everyone. Additionally it models to children a respectful way of communicating with others as well as aids in identifying solutions. Using positive language is a solution-focused approach as opposed to the problem-focused approach of no.don’t.stop.

At first it may be a conscious effort to avoid constantly saying no.don’t.stop with our children. Typically our very first reaction when a child does something dangerous, annoying, or inappropriate is to say no to them. However the more we practice, the more habitual it becomes to use positive language.

Sp perhaps today when an opportunity arises to replace no.don’t.stop with positive language, you will give it a try? Some situations can be quite challenging to figure out how to re-frame in the positive (ie- don’t pee on your little brother). However accept the challenge and know that pausing before reacting, will often result in a message conveyed with more clarity, peace, and harmony.

-Sarah

sarah@momsmilkboutique.com

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One Response to “Using Positive Language with Kids”

  1. Heather Mills says:

    Great post, Sarah! I have a 12 and 10 yr old and I still do this. It makes much better sense to give a direction of what to do instead of what not to do. Very encouraging! BTW, could you say, “Where do we pee?”, instead of “Don’t pee on your brother!” ?