Focus on the Behavior
It is hard for a child to change behavior when he or she does not feel respected. When your child misbehaves, it is important to separate the child from the behavior. You can approve of your child but disapprove of his or her behavior.
For example, instead of asking your child why he or she hits you, you should focus on the behavior. Try saying, “Hitting hurts. I will not allow hitting.”
Here are some other examples:
- Do not ask, “How many times do I have to tell you not to jump on the couch?” Instead, say, “Feet belong on the floor. I will be angry if the couch gets wrecked.”
- You should not say, “You look like a pig when you chew with your mouth open.” It is better to say, “Chewing with your mouth open shows poor manners. Try chewing with your mouth closed.”
Labels Motivate Negativity
Labeling is another form of negative communication. When we put a label on children, they often live up to it and believe it is part of who they are.
Examples of Labels:
She is the shy one.
You are always so mean.
Why are you always so messy?
Hearing statements like these would not motivate anyone to improve or change their behavior! Try statements that affirm the child, but motivate a change in behavior.
Examples of Affirmation:
If we give her a few minutes, she will be ready to talk.
Getting along is hard. Let’s see if we can think of a way to use your words to get what you want.
How do you think we can organize your room to help you keep it neat?
Apologies Need to be Learned
Forcing children to apologize can sometimes be considered negative communication. I’m sure at least once you’ve heard a parent say something along the lines of, “You march right over there and say you’re sorry!” The child then says in a sarcastic tone of voice, “Sorry.” Does he feel sorry? Probably not.
Children will need to learn about feeling remorseful and asking for forgiveness. But forcing apologies often makes young children feel embarrassed and resentful, or it makes them think that saying you are sorry gets you off the hook, even when you don’t feel sorry.
Angry feelings happen. If your child does something that would require an apology, instead of forcing him or her to say the words, ask your child to think of a way to make things better. This could be a hug or a high five. As your child gets older, talk about feeling sorry and asking for forgiveness. Practice this skill. As a parent, be sure to be a role model by saying you are sorry to your child when you make mistakes.
Using communication that respects and affirms your child can effectively help you in your goal of teaching your child appropriate behavior.