A better way to say no
I truly believe that parenting should be fun. However, some parts are more fun than others. We spend some of the best part of our existence attempting to keep our kids from eating dirt, trying to convince them to take a bath, or figuring out ways to have them not poke each other in the car.
Often the most difficult part of parenting comes at these moments, when it is time to guide our children’s behavior in another direction.
Instead of saying no, positive guidance focuses on the true nature of discipline; to teach our children the appropriate behavior. Saying no is easy, but is not as effective in getting the behavior you want.
For example, if you want your child to walk and you tell them, “No running” the child can still skip, hop or crawl to their destination. By saying, “please walk,” you make a specific request that the child can then follow. Always tell your child what you do want, not what you don’t want.
Set clear expectations and limits. Set reasonable boundaries that focus on important things and let your child be part of the development of rules when appropriate. Children are much more likely to take ownership of limits if they have helped create them and understand why they are needed.
Be a good example. If your child is screaming, whisper back. When they make a mistake, teach them compassion, patience and love by your response to their behavior.
Try redirection. When a child is doing something irritating, give them a different activity to keep them busy. For example, a young child can’t whine if they are engaged in singing the ABCs while driving down the road.
If you need to do more than redirection, discipline in a way that leaves a child’s self-esteem intact. Talk to them privately and focus on what they did right and what they can do better next time. Try to understand the reason for the misbehavior and think of ways to eliminate these causes in the future.
A parent who uses positive guidance instead of harsh discipline has a child who looks to them to see if they are doing the right thing, instead of avoiding their parent so they don’t get caught.
We want to produce adults who feel good about themselves, can control their own behavior and are kind to others. By using the principles of positive guidance, we can accomplish this with more joy along the way.
Melissa Behunin is a professor of psychology and family studies at Arizona Western College. She can be reached at email@example.com.