[Parenting] 21 Powerful Positive Phrases
Some parents have suggested I share on discipline. The method that works best for us is using Powerful Positive Phrases. This means replacing the commonly used “Don’t do this”, “Stop running”, etc. with positive directions for the child. In fact, when we say “Stop running”, the child hears “run” and is likely to continue running!
In our family, “discipline” simply means guiding the child to the correct path.
It’s important to note that babies and toddlers have little or limited sense of logical understanding until about 3 years old. (That’s what makes them sooooo adorable in the first place.) We’d need to repeat the same idea to them MANY times before they’d finally get it some day.
21 Powerful Positive Phrases
Here are our favourites for various situations:
1. Hands off the XXX / Leave that alone / Leave it / Touch your things
2. This is dangerous, no-no. This is yes-yes.
This is used when he touches “dangerous” things such as switches. I’d term these items as “dangerous” (or “no-no”) and show him examples of things that are safe (or “yes-yes”), which he’s free to touch. After some time, he’d ask before trying, “Mummy, is this a no-no?”
3. Gentle, please / You need to be gentle, or I’d feel painful *sob*
This is used when he’s rough to someone. Since he was a baby, we’ve been using the hand sign for “gentle”, which is a gentle stroke on the hand. After he’s been rough, I ask him to say or sign “Sorry”, then stroke the person gently.
4. Shh! / Softer / Quiet / I don’t understand, where’s your normal voice?
This is for shouting, screaming and whining.
5. Please ask properly / nicely. Mummy, may I…
This is used when he demands or whines for something and ought to be more polite. During pretend play, I also reinforce the sentence structures “[Name], may I have XXX, please?” followed by “Thank you very much, [Name]”. We do this several times a day, so this has become part of his language.
6. Slow down, walk
7. If it’s late, there’d be no stories. If you’re early, you’d have MANY stories.
I use this especially during the meal before nap or bedtime, if he’s taking his own sweet time. Or it can be twisted to fit situations when I need him to hurry up a little.
8. Let’s go. I’m closing the door after 3 counts. Closing the door 1, closing the door 2, closing the door 3.
This is used when it’s time to leave the room and he’s still stuck with some other activities. (Before this, he’d have gotten ample reminder that we’d be leaving the room.) After “closing the door 3”, I’d coolly close the door gently, leave the room and stand outside. Then he’d knock and tell me he wants to come out too. I’d say, “Oh, I thought you wanted to stay inside. Now, let’s go.”
(Note: His playroom is completely child-proof, so I can rest assured that he can stay inside independently for a short while.)
9. The room’s very messy. Tidy up first then we can XXX. *Sing tidy up song*
Initially, I’d to guide him how to tidy up his toys. The singing makes tidying up interesting. (I learnt the singing part from the teachers during Julia Gabriel Centre trial class.) Now, when he tidies up by himself, he’d sing the song.
10. I need space / Please give me some space. Offer new activity.
Sometimes, I need to do something or rest while he wants to cling on to me. I show him how to give me “space”. Offering an activity that he likes is a good way to distract him from clinging on like a koala bear.
11. Buttocks on the chair
12. Shh, quiet, sleep
This is for bedtime when he still keeps on talking. I stop responding to his questions, and tell him once that we can talk tomorrow. After that, I’d only say “Quiet, sleep”.
13. Keep your hands / legs to yourself
When he sleeps beside me, he likes to stretch his legs to touch me. Sometimes, this results in a kick. So I’ve to keep reminding him to keep his legs to himself.
14. You can kick a ball or water. That’s it.
Obviously, this is to tackle kicking the “wrong” things. I acknowledge that young children may get the kick out of kicking things, so we often play with kicking a ball at home.
This is a powerful word to use when I need him to concentrate on a requested action instead of being super-distracted. For example, going down the stairs with care.
This is another powerful single word. For instance, you can have XXX when you can control your hands. Or when he starts to lose control of his emotions.
17. One by one, step by step
This is one of my earliest favourite phrases, to teach Vee to do things one step at a time, instead of his mind flying all over the place. Commonly used in situations such as mealtimes (finish main course then fruits) or when he gets frustrated while playing.
18. Be patient / Learn to wait
19. Mummy’s upset because XXX. Do you want Mummy to have an upset face or a HAPPY face? Then, please YYY.
Recently, Vee’s very sensitive to my facial expression and wants me to have a happy face. So I use this method to ride on his preference.
20. Think of a way / Figure it out yourself / You can do it
It’s normal for children to get frustrated when they can’t seem to do something, for instance, taking off shoes. I use this to encourage Vee to keep trying instead of turning to frustration.
21. Calm down, breathe, count
If he starts to get hysterical, I ask him to calm down by showing him how to do deep breaths at least 3 times. He finally learnt to take deep breaths only after 2 years old, so this takes some time to master. Just keep demonstrating how to do it. Counting can help to distract him and calm down as well.
Giving More Oomph to the Positive Phrases
When using the Powerful Positive Phrases, add these techniques on:
- Tone of voice: Sound firm or very serious to show that you mean what you say
- Facial expression: Look serious or have exaggerated facial expressions, depending on the situation
- Eye contact: Go close to the child, talk to her directly and look into her eyes
- Hand gestures: Include hand gestures or hand signs for better understanding of what you mean
- Action: Guide the child, especially a baby or young toddler, specifically to do what you think is correct
What if the child refuses to cooperate?
Most of the time, Vee cooperates when we use positive phrases. If he’s really “out of control”, he goes into a Time Out Corner . Here’s how we do it:
- We label it as the “corner”, usually the same corner spot in the room or the storeroom downstairs. If we’re outside, any dim and quiet corner will do.
- We started using this method when he was about 1+ year old.
- He’s in the corner to calm down, listen to my explanation or complete the requested task. Usually, he’s there for a few minutes until we’re done. Some books suggest 1 minute for every year of age. I don’t use a timer, so it’s up to individual.
- I stay with him at the corner till we’re done.
- At the end of the time out, I wrap up by affirming that he’s a good boy and can listen.
- After the time out, I guide him on the corrective action where necessary. For example, clean up the mess. If he cooperates well, I’d praise him for the good behaviour, affirm my love with “Mummy LOVES you” and give him a big, tight hug.
Being a Stay-At-Home-Mum means I’ve to handle Vee every waking hour. Using the Powerful Positive Phrases and techniques above allow me to guide him calmly, without flying into a rage. If I feel my blood boiling, #21 (Calm down, breathe, count) works the best.
Sharing time: What are your favourite positive discipline techniques? Do share in the comments box.