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Simple Words to Avoid Power Struggles

avoid power strugglesDid you know the average child hears 432 negative comments or words per day versus 32 positive ones? (Source: K. Kvols, Redirecting Children’s Behavior)

If there were a hidden camera in your house, how many times per day would you catch yourself saying “No” or “Don’t” to your kids?

NO or DON’T commands create several problems, especially for young kids…

  • Double-processing. “Don’t” commands require a child to “double-process.” He has to think “Well, what does she NOT want me to do?” and “What does she want me to DO instead?” This can be very confusing, especially for young kids.
  • It reinforces the negative behavior. Instead of hearing what you want the child to do, she is reminded of what she shouldn’t do. Which command do you think she’ll remember?
  • It’s discouraging. If 93% of the feedback you received during the day were negative, you would likely feel discouraged. That’s how our kids feel.

I’m not suggesting we can eradicate all of the “Don’t” or “No” commands from our communication, but we can make shifts in the percentages with the following strategies:

  • Practice using “DO” commands. Calmly state what you want your child to DO. Rather than, “Don’t run in the house.” Try, “Please use your walking feet in the house.” Rather than, “Don’t chew with your mouth open.” Try, “Please try to make your lips touch each other as you’re chewing.”
  • Find opportunities to say YES! Rephrase your comments to imply “YES.” Rather than, “No, we don’t have time to go to the park today;” try “The park sounds awesome! Would you rather go Wednesday evening or Saturday morning?” Instead of, “Don’t color on the walls.” Try (in a calm voice!) “You can color on this paper or with sidewalk chalk outside.” Rather than, “We’re not going anywhere until that room is clean!” Try – “YES, when your room is clean, then we’ll leave for the mall. Sounds like fun!” (She still has to clean her room but it’s more encouraging hearing a YES response rather than a NO.)

About the Author

Amy McCready
Nationally recognized parenting expert Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the best selling author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic - A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World and If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. As a “recovering yeller” and a Certified Positive Discipline Instructor, Amy is a champion of positive parenting techniques for happier families and well-behaved kids. Amy is a TODAY Show contributor and has been featured on CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, Rachael Ray, Steve Harvey & others. In her most important role, she is the proud mom of two amazing young men.
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