Tired of yelling? Learn about positive discipline, and how what you say - and how you say it - can get the results you want
Talking is the main way we instruct our children. We tell, explain, remind, praise, warn, encourage, and correct. So when it comes to discipline, the words you use -- and the way you use them -- play an enormous role in shaping your child's behavior. The same goes for how carefully you listen. If your child feels that you respect her, she'll be more likely to comply.
Here, some simple guidelines to help you make sure that when you speak to your child about her behavior, you won't be wasting your breath. Instead, you'll be using positive discipline techniques that are instructive, not destructive, and caring, not callous.
Adjust Your Attitude
Be calm. This is perhaps the simplest and most important communication skill to remember. Too bad it's not as easy as it sounds. Children have an impressive array of behaviors that drive parents bonkers. There's the endless grating wail of a whine, the out-of-control shrieks of a temper tantrum, the dogged persistence of "Why? Why? Why?"
Nevertheless, an even-keeled response will produce better results than will betraying how you really feel. A neutral tone communicates that nothing your child does or says will ruffle you. This can stop an escalating battle of wills in its tracks and help you preserve the upper hand. A calm demeanor can be contagious too, squelching your child's agitation.
Keeping mellow also allows you to think through a situation more rationally and avoid saying something rash that would undercut your authority. Few kids are going to believe an overblown threat like "Stop screaming or we're never coming to the playground again!"
Be confident. Or at least always look that way in your child's eyes. That means sticking to your convictions. Self-doubt is common when it comes to discipline. You think, Maybe he's right -- I am being mean by saying no to just one more cookie. Or as your child collapses in a fit of protest on the sofa, you waver: Why did I turn off the TV -- what's the harm in another half-hour video? In fact, there may be nothing wrong with either of those things. But reversing yourself only shows that you're malleable and sends your child the message that if she howls loudly or persistently enough, you'll cave.
Be connected. Be sure you have your child's attention before you start to speak. Saying "Time to get your coat on" while looking directly at him signals more urgency than if you distractedly call out those words while you're packing up a diaper bag and talking on the phone.
Call him by name, then wait until he looks at you before you begin to talk, or go to him. Kneel down to a toddler's or preschooler's eye level. If your child is gazing away, say, "Look at me" or "Let me see your eyes."
Make sure that your words, tone, and body language all send the same message. Kids as young as 2 can sense that a parent's tone changes the meaning of her words.