One of the points I’ve found parents have trouble dealing with is how to talk to their children while disciplining them. Should they be calm or loud? Should they tell their child or ask?  Through my experience with kids and their parents I’ve found that how you talk to your child can make a world of difference. Positive parenting techniques also encourage certain techniques to help you communicate more effectively with your child. Here are a few tips that can help you communicate positively with your child and as a result help you reduce or eliminate power struggles or conflict and have a relaxing home environment.

1. Get down to your child’s eye level. Your body language is just as important as your verbal language when communicating with your child.

  • What you can do:
    Make sure you are at your child’s eye level when talking by having eye contact or by getting down to your child’s height.  He/she is more likely to listen to what you have to say when you have eye contact then when you are shouting overhead or from the end of the room. Speaking over your child can also make him feel intimidated or scared. However speaking at your child’s eye level lets him know that you take him seriously and that it’s a two way conversation.

2. Be firm and calm. Shouting usually comes from a source of anger which can causes irrational thinking and saying things we’ll later regret. Your child deserves the same respect you expect him to show you and the best way to do that is to model the right behavior. Shouting

  • What you can do:
    If your child is safe and isn’t harming himself or other children you can afford to give yourself a few seconds before reacting. These few seconds can help you calm down and think about how you’re going to react. Keep your tone calm but firm when talking to your child about his misbehavior. You shouldn’t be mean or aggressive but avoid using pet names, this is a serious situation and should be handled accordingly to send your child the right message.

3. Avoid saying “No”. Saying “No” too much will lose it’s effectiveness, after a while your child won’t pay as much attention if you say “No” which will probably lead to you escalating your response and possibly resorting to shouting or more aggressive behavior to emphasize the point

  • What you can do:
    First, keep “No” for few important rules that have to do with safety or important household rules like touching the oven or standing on the table. Second, when you want to tell your child that he can’t do something phrase your message positively. Check point #2.

4. Avoid negative phrases. When you start with a negative statement that just makes your child feel guilty but doesn’t tell him why you’re upset.

  • What you can do:
    Start your sentence positively, let your child know why you’re upset and most importantly redirect to an acceptable activity. Instead of “Stop grabbing my paper!!!” try “I can’t read my paper while you grab it, you can get a story and read it next to me or you can wait till I’m done and we can play together”.

5. State don’t ask. It’s important to respect your child’s individual wants and needs but in certain situation asking your child to behave just sets you up to accepting “No” from your child as an answer!

  • What you can do:
    Children pick up on subtle differences in speech, if you phrase your sentence as a question your child has the right to say No as an answer. I’m not telling you to instruct or force your child but you can try phrasing your sentence as a statement or option. Give your child choices that are fair to her and acceptable for you.  Instead of “How about you stop banging on the table now Sweetie” you can try “Sarah, you’re banging too loud and it’s hurting mommy’s ears. You can stop banging or we can go outside where it’s better to have loud noises ” if going outside isn’t an option then redirect your child to other acceptable behavior you can read more on redirection here. Remember not to overuse this technique so it doesn’t turn into instructing your child about everything.

6. Always show love. Even though you might be furious with your child for whatever he’s done don’t let that interfere or get confused with showing him that you love him. Often when parents shout or ignore children on purpose their child starts feeling guilty and may fear you won’t love him anymore. Which probably results in low self confidence or more misbehavior to get your attention.

  • What you can do:
    Make it a point to let your child know you still care, even when your addressing his misbehavior. Acknowledge his feelings that he was hurt, angry or tired and that’s why he acted out. Separate his misbehavior from him as a person. Using phrases like “stop being naughty” tells him that he’s the bad person not that his behavior is bad. Make sure you are clear that you are talking about his behavior “It’s not OK to hit others”.
    Listen to his side of the story. Don’t automatically go into punishment mode, it’s important to understand why your child misbehaved and for him to explain himself. This helps you avoid similar situations in the future and lets your child know his feelings matter.
    Instead of enforcing consequences help your child reach a conclusion to why his behavior is not OK. How would he feel if someone hit him? What could he have done instead?

Remember that it’s important to acknowledge and respect that your child has her own opinion and interests and work towards a situation where everyone leaves satisfied. The goal is to have a mutually respected relationship between you and your child that fosters her independence and confidence. I hope these tips help you enhance your positive relationship with your child.

Photo from Allparentstalk.com  and blendedfamilytoday.blogspot.com

5 thoughts on “How you say things matters

  1. I found this post really usefull, sometimes the basic stuff is so obvious but you need to be reminded. We always get down to our children’s level when we speak to them, but I admit not using the NO word is tricky! 😉

    /camilla

  2. Great, great tips. As the first-time parent of an 11-month-old, I especially appreciate this post. It’s strange to be entering a time when I have to start saying no for my son’s safety — this helps me to create a strategy for when and how I say it. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Am very happy to hear as a new mom you found the post useful 🙂 that’s really the reason why I started this blog. Please feel free to send in any topics you might be interested in or wondering about and I’ll try to provide info.

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