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The language we use when talking to children matters. The words we use frame our expectations, and guide children’s attention in very real and direct ways. That’s why it’s important that in the coming new year, we say what we want our children to do instead of what we don’t want them to do.

For example, read the following sentence:

Don’t think of Santa Claus.

Be honest – what did you think of? What comes to mind when you read ‘Don’t think of Santa Claus’? I’m willing to bet you thought of Santa, and even saw an image of him in your mind. The word “Don’t” is practically an after thought.

Using positive language with children means saying what you want them to focus on. By doing so, you direct their attention toward a desired behavior instead of directing their thoughts toward whatever it is you don’t want.

Here are a few examples of how to switch from negative to positive language:

Negative                                                                         Positive

Don’t run!                    ………………………………   Use walking feet.
Stop being so loud!    ……………………………… Quiet down/use your inside voice.
Don’t touch that!        ………………………………   Hands off/leave that alone.
No hitting!                   ………………………………   Keep your hands to yourself.
Don’t be rude!             ………………………………  Be respectful or be quiet.

Use language that focuses your child on what you want them to do; this puts the desired behavior in the forefront of his mind. This is no cure-all when it comes to behavior management, but when you use positive language consistently you’ll notice the difference.

What other negative phrases can you turn into positive ones?

Share your ideas here!

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2 Responses to “New Year Resolution: Use Positive Language”

  1. Felicity says:

    This is a great reminder and I appreciate the examples. I will use some tomorrow. It gets exhausting always saying no and don’t and stop. Thanks!

    • Mo says:

      I’m glad you’re finding it useful! When I first started using positive language with kids, it really kept me on my toes because it was not how I was accustomed to addressing things I didn’t want them to do. It’s fun brain training, and if you use it consistently, I’m willing to bet you’ll see some immediate results. Let me know how it goes Felicity, it’s great to meet you!

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