Positive reinforcement for children is such an important aspect to healthy development. This technique, used by parents and caregivers, helps to modify children’s negative behavior, reinforcing desired behaviors.
However, sometimes in the heat of the moment, when the phone is ringing, the dinner is burning, and the baby is crying, positive words can sometimes take a negative turn without intention. When this happens, it can leave children feeling hurt, angry, or even confused.
Here are three phrases that parents should banish from their vocabulary and replace them with gentler alternatives.
1. “Leave me alone!” Parents are even busier now than ever. But, it never fails, when you are in the middle of five different things at once, your toddler, middle-schooler, and even your teenager all want equal attention at once. When this happens, don’t tell them to “leave me alone”. When you repeatedly tell children to “leave me alone”, “don’t bother me”, or “I’m busy”, eventually they will do exactly what you are asking. If you set up this pattern, children will be less likely to come to you when they need help. Instead of saying “leave me alone”, try “give me a few minutes, and when I am done, you will have my full attention.” Let your children know that even though you are busy, they still have top priority in your life.
2. “Stop Crying or I’ll Give You Something to Cry About!” This threat usually comes out of a parents mouth when they are extremely frustrated with a child and situation. Verbal threats are rarely effective and eventually, you are going to have to “make good” on your threat or else it will lose power. Studies show that threats of hitting have been found to lead to more corporal punishment-which in itself has been proven to be less of an effective behavioral deterrent. Find a constructive strategy to change negative behavior that works for your child and remember, children are not “one-size fits all”. Even siblings respond to discipline strategies differently.
3. “You Know Better!” This is another quip that can make children feel hurt, angry, or sad for the simple fact that they may actually not know better. Learning is a life-time process built on trial and error. Give your child the benefit of the doubt and always be supportive in both actions and words.