“Hey Mom, look at this!” I turned to see my 4 year old “P” precariously holding up a glass figurine a few aisles away in the store.
My heart leaped as I lunged her way, imagining shattered pieces of miniature horse covering the floor between us.
I choked out, “Oh Honey, please put that down! Remember I said look but don’t touch!” as I closed the gap.
With the figure safely back on the shelf, I kept her close by my side. I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of guilt for saying “No” for what felt like the millionth time… for bringing her somewhere that’s just darn hard for a 4 year old to resist touching things… for having to restrict her with No, Please don’t, Stop, No thank you…
Why can’t I be one of those “yes to everything” moms who never says no?
These days it’s super unpopular to EVER say no to our children. It’s as if we’ll damage them somehow by restricting their actions.
I don’t side with that philosophy.
I think kids need healthy boundaries, and they need practice in the real world to know what’s appropriate in a store and what’s not.
And sometimes that means saying “No.”
Positive Parenting Techniques
Still, I want to be positive and uplifting as much as possible. I want to say yes as much as I can.
So I am for balancing affirmations with corrections.
When I taught elementary PE, I went through multiple trainings on what our district called PBS- Positive Behavior Support (PBIS on the national scale). It focused on having clear expectations, and then catching kids doing the right thing.
Children by nature desire want to please adults and desperately want our attention. A word of praise or encouragement to a young child can plant a lasting seed of confidence.
The more we catch our children doing things well and say something positive to them, the more we reinforce the desired behaviors.
8 Positive Phrases That Work
Here are 8 phrases to use when you catch your child doing the right thing:
- I like the way you… (set that down gently)
- Thank you for… (sharing with your sister)
- Good job… (taking your plate to the counter without being asked.)
- Wow, you did that by yourself! (Put on socks)
- I didn’t know you could do that! (Draw a circle)
- Thank you for using good manners (when they say please/thank you)
- You just ____. That means… (describe a new characteristic, such as: you just showed compassion.
- That means thinking about what other people are feeling)
- I’m proud of you for… (following directions right away)
Positive parenting techniques in action
Recently, P built a huge tower of blocks. When little sis “L” came crawling over, instead of the usual, “No Mom, get her awaaaaayyyy!” she said, “Hey Mom, look what I built for L to destroy!”
“Wow, P, that is such a nice thing to do for L!” I came over to look at her creation, and she beamed with pride.
This was in sharp contrast to the other day when I heard a loud THUMP and saw the 1 year old flail back from a sitting position to flat on her back.
I was halfway to her in the time it took to fill her lungs with air and her face with rage.
The resulting “WAAAAAAA” from bonking her head on the hardwood pierced the air, and big sis looked sheepishly up at me.
“She was getting into my stuff,” came the explanation for the unspoken confession of guilt.
Focus on the right behavior.
Ok so my 1 year old has been getting into her big sister’s toys more and more lately. I’m focusing hard on affirming big sis when she does the right thing, because right now she needs a lot of correction.
The “great job sharing,” “that was such a nice thing to do for your sister,” and “wow thanks for being so thoughtful!” phrases are going a long way!
When I have to come in with a “Honey, we don’t push sister, we need to be kind” type of correction, I feel a flood of relief that it’s not the only thing she’s been hearing from me.
So the next time you feel like you might “damage” your kids by restricting their actions or saying “no”, remember this:
When you balance correction with positive phrases for doing the right thing, you build your kids up and help them learn to make good choices in an affirming way.
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