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November 29 , 2018

Talking to Toddlers With Positive Language

Saying ‘no’ to your little ones is not the end of the world – in fact, sometimes it is just what your child needs to hear. A firm ‘no’ can have a precise impact at times when you really need it to, but if you are trying to get your child to listen to an explanation or to change their behaviour, then starting your response with a negative can mean you fail before you even begin.

Change your tone

Moving from negative to positive speech with our kids is a positive parenting tool that has great benefits.

Young children often don’t take in or understand the negative words we use. They miss the ‘don’t or ‘stop’ at the beginning of the sentence and can’t figure out why we are telling them to do the thing they are already doing when you may appear angry about it. It’s confusing for them and frustrating for us!

Simply changing the tone and wording from the negative to the positive can make a big difference in whether your little ones listen and cooperate. When you are able to focus on positive language with your little ones this can have a big impact on turning a battle into collaboration.

So how do you change your tone from positive to negative? The answer is …

Choice of words

It is key that you start by thinking about what you are saying and whether you can you get your message across without using any negative language.

At Hummingbird, we have found the best practice is to not tell them what they can’t do and to encourage or talk to them about what they can do for example:

“Please walk inside.”

“Let’s use the ball outside.”

“Use your gentle hands with your friends.”

Another easy change is to start by saying something that connects with your little ones in a positive way. It might be noticing what they are doing from their perspective or trying to put their feelings into words. This small connection shows that you notice them and care about them and their feelings before you notice and redirect their behaviour.

“It looks like you two are having loads of fun… ”

“It looks like you are upset with your sister… ”

Sometimes, if you put two things together you can avoid any negatives at all.

“It looks like you two are having loads of fun, take the ball outside where you have lots of space to throw it.”

Sometimes, you can become stressed, or rushed, or overwhelmed, and can’t think of a positive way to say what you need to but if you can start with a positive you will get a much better response. With a little practice, positive language will slowly become more of a habit than effort.

Setting the tone

It’s not just what you say, but also how you say it. The other side of this idea is your tone.

As caregivers, it is extremely important to demonstrate to children on how we speak to each other. You need to ‘set the tone’ and respond in a calm, polite, and positive manner. You need to show your little ones that it is important to master your tone and that it is worth the effort.

It may be tricky and sometimes it may often slip away right when you need to remember it. As long as you try to make the majority of your interactions with them as positive, especially when you are guiding their behaviour, then you are on the right path!


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