I thought this was a really interesting article (although an odd website name) about how to speak to your kids. I’ve pasted some highlights below, click the link for the full story. A lot of these tips are things you probably thought of, but when you put them together and change how you speak to your kids, it probably has an effect.
This whole idea of praising effort over attributes (i.e. say “what a great effort you put into that” instead of “you’re so smart”) ties into a famous book many of us have read called NURTURE SHOCK. If you haven’t read it, it’s really fascinating.
I also think the idea of praising (or “suggesting”) very specific behaviors is a helpful tactic, which they outline below. That’s a big part of conscious discipline and I really think it helps kids hear what you’re saying, rather than in one ear/out the other. Same with the “or else” scenario below. Telling them what they CAN do, rather than just saying NO (or a scary NO), is much more productive…until five minutes later when they do something else naughty
The bribing is something I really have to work on, especially with eating (like eat veggies, get dessert). It’s so true the slippery slope bribing takes you down. Although, I’m not quite sure the suggestion here is all that effective on that topic, to be honest…
Don’t Say: “Good boy (or girl)!”
This statement, while said with good intentions, actually has the opposite effect you’re hoping for. Most parents say this as a way to boost a child’s self-esteem. Unfortunately, it has quite a different effect. When children hear “good girl!” after performing a task you’ve asked them for, they assume that they’re only “good” because they’ve done what you’ve asked. That sets up a scenario in which children can become afraid of losing their status as a “good kid” and their motivation to cooperate becomes all about receiving the positive feedback they’re hoping for.
Instead, try “I appreciate it so much when you cooperate!” This gives children real information about what you’re wanting and how their behavior impacts your experience. You can even take your feelings out of it entirely and say something like, “I saw you share your toy with your friend.” This allows your child to decide for himself whether sharing is “good” and lets him choose to repeat the action from his internal motivation, rather than doing it just to please you.P
“Stop it right now, or else!”
Threatening a child is almost never a good idea. First of all, you’re teaching them a skill you don’t really want them to have: the ability to use brute force or superior cunning to get what they want, even when the other person isn’t willing to cooperate. Secondly, you’re putting yourself in an awkward position in which you either have to follow through on your threats—exacting a punishment you threatened in the heat of your anger—or you can back down, teaching your child that your threats are meaningless. Either way, you’re not getting the result you want and you’re damaging your connection with your child.P
While it can be difficult to resist the urge to threaten, try sharing vulnerably and redirecting to something more appropriate instead.“It’s NOT OK to hit your brother. I’m worried that he will get hurt, or he’ll retaliate and hurt you. If you’d like something to hit, you may hit a pillow, the couch or the bed.” By offering an alternative that is safer yet still allows the child to express her feelings you’re validating her emotions even as you set a clear boundary for her behavior. This will ultimately lead to better self-control and emotional wellbeing for your child.P
“If you _____ then I’ll give you _____”
Bribing kids is equally destructive as it discourages them from cooperating simply for the sake of ease and harmony. This kind of exchange can become a slippery slope and if used frequently, you’re bound to have it come back and bite you. “No! I won’t clean my room unless you buy me Legos!”
Instead try, “Thank you so much for helping me clean up!” When we offer our genuine gratitude, children are intrinsically motivated to continue to help. And if your child hasn’t been very helpful lately, remind him of a time when he was. “Remember a few months ago when you helped me take out the trash? That was such a big help. Thanks!” Then allow your child to come to the conclusion that helping out is fun and intrinsically rewarding.