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Do you find yourself saying "No!" to your child? Here are 5 ways you can change your language.

Updated: Oct 3, 2023

There are numerous methods to express that something is unsafe or inappropriate aside from the word "no." As a parent, you spend a lot of time correcting behavior and teaching boundaries, whether you say“stop that” or “put it down” or “not safe,” or physically redirects your child, saying ‘no’ is not a negative thing. However after a while, "no" can lose its effectiveness.

Here are 5 ways you can change your language to communicate with your child effectively in ways that are gentle and positive.

1. Comment on the action, not the person - Separate your child's actions from them when you speak. There is a big difference between responding with "You're being rude to your brother" and replacing it with "I don't think your brother likes it when you do that. Let's try sharing this toy for 5 minutes." This helps you emphasize with your child and shows them that while we make mistakes, they do not define who we are. Mistakes are a natural part of life and of learning and shouldn't be shameful as we practice doing the right things.

2. Model kindness. Use kindness and love towards yourself to show your child how to be curious and compassionate about their own emotions. If you're tired, use the opportunity to show or share what self-care looks like to you. You can say, "I am tired today. I'm going to take a nice shower and it will make me feel more rested, and then I will go to bed early tonight". You'll also be modeling how your child can treat themselves and others in times of need.

3. Swap commands for an invitation to work together. Changing the way you ask questions that encourages your child to work collaboratively with you. A command sounds like "Tie your shoes", a gentle parenting alternative would ask, "Should we tie our shoes so we don't trip?"

4. Have clear expectations for your child's behaviour. Keep your language positive and set clear expectations with your child. For example: Before leaving for ______________ let them know, that they’ll have to ______________. Ask them when they plan on completing a task (i.e. chores, homework, getting ready for school). Wait for their cooperation. You can tell your child, “I will wait as long as I need to for you to (put on your seatbelt).” Once your child complies, acknowledge what they have done and move on!

5. Redirect, redirect, redirect! As you know by now, children have varying abilities to regulate their emotional states. These situations can often result in temper tantrums. These tantrums are an overwhelming and outwardly expression of their frustration. The best way to release? kicking and screaming of course! So the next time you're in the supermarket, and your little one is starting to act up, why not enlist them to help you pick things off the shelf! Redirect their attention and use this opportunity to stop an unwanted behaviour before it happens!

Research has shown that children find it less pleasant and more challenging to follow instructions when parents use negative language. This is because the child needs to listen to what you have said and deduce what he or she should be doing instead. While this may be obvious for an adult, for a little person who is loving the excitement of drawing all over the walls, it is more challenging.

Try these techniques and see how they work for you!

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