I’m not a positive parenting only advocate (although if you are, you might still appreciate some of my ideas) Please don’t feel guilty for snapping at your child or for putting them in time out. Children do need to see that adults have emotions and that sometimes their behaviour has a negative impact on other people – including you! That said, if you find yourself yelling a lot or only ever being negative then hopefully this blog post will give you some ideas on how to balance this with positive parenting strategies. I have been a teacher for over 10 years in a lot of different types of schools and colleges (and been told I’m “outstanding” by Ofsted, the DfE, various managers, parents and even by some of my teenage students who are notoriously difficult to please), so I’m somewhat of a behaviour management expert!
1. Clear boundaries
Young children can be very literal in their interpretation of the world, so you need to be unambiguous wherever possible. In very young children, they may honestly and literally not understand what it is that you’re asking of them. “Stop it” for example could be applied to any number of things happening at that moment – you know very clearly what you mean but your child might not. “Please stop [throwing the ball indoors] because [you might break something]” would be a better approach for the first time of addressing the behaviour that you don’t like. Of course, an older child may deliberately choose to misinterpret what you are saying, so even more reason to leave no margin for error in what you say to them! You could try SMART parenting.
2. Finish each others sentences
If your child is doing something that you have asked them not to do on a previous occasion, then you could either try “remember, we don’t do that because… ” and trail off, allowing them to complete your sentence or “what do you think I’m about to say?” before allowing a little thinking time and waiting for an answer from your child. Getting your child to engage in fixing their behaviour rather than passively repeating the rules yourself will help your child to remember them more clearly. If your child is doing something that you’ve asked them not to straight after you’ve already tried a positive technique, then it’s time to try / threaten a consequence or time out.
3. Phrase it in the positive
Instead of “don’t eat with your fingers” try “we eat this with a knife and fork” – it sounds less confrontational and is giving your child a clear message about what you DO want from them rather than putting the focus on what you don’t want.
4. (Occasionally) thank them for trying
If your child is really struggling with a particular rule, but hasn’t yet completely mastered it try acknowledging their effort when they remember. “Thank you for [putting your clothes in the laundry basket]”. When your child realises that you notice the good as well as the bad in their behaviour, they have far more incentive to keep behaving well. Use this one sparingly though to avoid Toxic Praise.
5. Word it as fact
“Are you ready to go home now?” is not nearly as effective as “we’re going home in 5 minutes”. “Can you help me clear the table?” is not as good as “before you go to play, please put your plate and cup by the sink”. If you don’t want an answer, don’t ask a question!
6. Limited choices
In some circumstances, you can present limited choices where the outcome does not bother you – and your child will appreciate some autonomy. “Are you going to wear your green socks or your yellow socks today?” is far better than “ready to put your socks on?” or even “put your socks on” which although it’s is a direct instruction, does not mirror the respect and politeness that you would like your child to show you.
7. The final (and often silent) countdown!
Getting your child to leave something that is fun for them, like a playdate can be challenging. Giving a few time warnings can help them to make the transition (and also a great technique for an introverted kid). They are very clear on how long they have remaining and so can put a toy where they want it to be or finish their turn or whatever. I’m a huge fan of non-verbal signals for this and for other purposes. Why shout across a noisy playground or interrupt the flow of their game when you can simply catch your child’s eye and hold up fingers to show how many minutes are left or tap your watch when it’s time to go? It saves your breath too and you (hopefully) won’t feel like you’re nagging. (Other positive non-verbal signals can be as simple as nodding, thumbs up or a big smile to show that you approve of what your child is doing.)
Want more ideas? Try 7 More positive parenting techniques
Stay positive! 🙂
A Woman Less Ordinary lives, parents, purchases and thinks differently. With 10 years of teaching experience, she has many effective techniques for managing kids’ behaviour (and a lot to say about finance if you’re interested) BUT YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO ANY OF IT!