Last updated on August 27, 2021.
“Stop!”, “Don’t go there!”, “Don’t touch this!”, “Don’t do that!”, “No! No! No!” – If this sounds familiar and your child isn’t cooperating, you are not alone. We asked parenting expert Marie Marchand to share some simple tools to get your child to listen and one of them is positive language.
Too much negative language will not get your child to listen
Children all need to hear a ‘no’ or a ‘don’t’ on occasion. Not everything in life can be a ‘yes’. However, too much negative language can have an undesirable effect on children and how they respond to us. Negative language can create enormous power struggles in the house. Think huge tantrums and, sometimes, even some revenge.
When my son was about five, he asked me to go to the park. I said no. He immediately dropped to the floor and started kicking, hitting, and screaming. I stood there thinking, “What did I do? What’s wrong with him?”
Get your child to listen by using more ‘yeses’ and fewer ‘nos’
An easy tip that I picked up along the way is to flip my sentences to use positive language. I try to start my sentences with ‘yes’ rather than ‘no’, a positive rather than a negative, even if my child is not getting what he demands. For example, if your child asks for a snack just before dinner, instead of saying “No you can’t, we will have dinner soon”, try “Yes, that would be nice, you must be hungry. We are about to have dinner so let’s set up the table quickly so we can eat.” This will validate that you understand that your child is hungry and you are acting fast to provide for his needs.
Get your child to listen by using more ‘dos’ and fewer ‘don’ts’
Another easy tip is to use more ‘dos’ and less ‘don’ts’. Changing a negative statement into a positive one helps focus children away from what they’re ‘not getting’ and onto what they are getting or asked to do. Consider the examples below.
“Don’t run across the street” –> “Please hold my hand to cross the street”
“Don’t eat with your mouth full.” –> “Please finish your bite before you speak.”
“Don’t drag your sweater on the floor.” –> “Would you like to put your sweater in your bag or mine?”
“Stop yelling!” –> “Quiet voice please”
Try out a few of these. Life will be more positive and less stressful for everyone!