Focusing on the “Do’s”

Jun 13, 2022

If you have spent a nanosecond on the parenting-advice side of social media, you’ve probably found that there is a plethora of advice on what NOT to do....

  • “Don’t compliment your child!”

  •  “Don’t tell them to be careful”

  • “Don’t tell them don’t”

  • “Don’t end your sentences with the word ‘okay?’”

  • “Don’t helicopter parent at the park”

  • “Don’t be on your phone at the park”

  • “Don’t give them instruction without giving them a choice.”

  • “Don’t give them too many choices.”

Bah! It’s enough to make you want to pull out what’s left of your post-partum thinning hair (is it still supposed to be thinning when your youngest kid is two and a half, right?...asking for a friend). It’s enough to make us wonder...what exactly am I allowed to say to my child!?

Here is our key: Focus on what you want your child to DO. Here are some examples:

Scenario 1: You are at the park. It’s time to go. You give your child their “five-minute warning.” They look you dead in the eye, yell “no!” and start running the opposite way, towards traffic. You may have social media advice running through your head right now. “Ugh, I’m not supposed to yell something negative. I’m not supposed to yell ‘be careful’! I’m supposed to be attentive, but also calm. What do I do!?”

In those moments, focus on what do you want your child to do right now. You want them to stop, right? Be safe from traffic? It’s okay in that moment to yell “STOP,” run to them, grab them, and physically get them to stop moving towards traffic. Then, once the situation is calm, walk them through all the rules of playing at the park, like.

  • When we are at the park, you must stay on the area with the shredded tire. If you want to move areas, you must tell me first.

  • We follow the posted rules of the park. The rules at this park are: putting your trash in the bin, not throwing rocks, and not jumping off the second level.

  • We can play with other kids but must use kind words and keep our hands to ourselves.

  • When it is time to go, I will give you a five-minute warning. Then, we will pack up and go to the car.

  • When we are near the parking lot, you will hold my hand.

  • We can only go to the park if we follow the rules of the park! If you have a hard time following the rules, we will leave. 

The nice thing about parenting life is that we are faced with constant learning opportunities! Now you know that the next time you head to the park, you will need to review the rules BEFORE you ever get to the park.

Bonus: We have already covered, “What to do when your child tells you ‘no’” in a previous blog post. Also, we’ve also given tips for helping your child transition easier via the blog, and, via social media.

Scenario 2: You are at the trampoline park for a birthday party. Your son has taken his paper plate, full of pizza grease, torn it into a billion pieces, and thrown it all over the birthday boy as confetti. The other kids take this as a cue to begin ripping their plates, while the 19-year-old party host is beginning to look dejected and overwhelmed.

What do you want your child (and the other children) to do? Clean it up, right? Tell them this directly and calmly. “Uh oh! Before you can go jump, you will need to clean up all the paper plate pieces. Here is the trashcan.”

Simple as that! It’s easy to make these situations too complicated, by lacing in our own embarrassment or strong emotions. When you focus on the “do’s” it makes it easier to cut through to clearly communicate to our children what we need them to do.

Did you notice how we used the word “uh-oh” in our example above? We cover the value of a “Warning Word” such as “Uh-oh” in our Parenting 101 course. Check it out here! 

Scenario 3: Your 11-year-old is in a mood and calls your 9-year-old a “dumb brat.” You see your 9-year- old ball her fist up, about to go in for the punch. You just can’t get the words, “Use gentle hands and kind words with each other!” out of your mouth sincerely or quickly enough.

What do you want your children to DO? Not hit each other? Not say nasty things? Generally get along? Focus on that. In that precise moment, you may need to quickly say, “Stop! Don’t hit him!” Then, follow up with. “Phew, you guys are having a hard time getting along today. How can we solve this problem?”

We previously spent a week covering “Handling sibling fighting” on social media! Check it out here! 

It’s also important to remember: the specific words you use with your child do not matter as much as how you communicate the “do” message to your child. Here are some keys to effective communication with your child:

  1. Get on your child’s level. Squat, sit, or pick them up to your level. You should be eye-to-eye.

  2. Ensure you have their attention. For many kids, this looks like eye contact. We use statements like, “Can you look in my eyes” or, even just a simple “eyes!” before we give a direct command. However, not every kid demonstrates attention with eye contact. You know your kid best!

  3. Use simple, clear, concrete language. A broad statement like, “be careful in the parking lot!” is not effective for many children. Nor is a long, lecturing statement, like “Remember to always follow the rules and pay attention in the parking lot. I don’t want you to get hurt, I want you to be careful...” Instead, be clear and to-the-point. “Hold my hand and walk right next to me in the parking lot.”

  4. Use a calm tone, dropping your volume when needed. Yelling often has the opposite intended effect for many kids. They may completely phase out the yelling, because they are used to it, or are unbothered by it. Or, they may get so stressed out by the yelling, that their brain fills with worried thoughts, instead of listening to your words. Instead, when you really need your children to listen, try dropping your volume down quieter. If you have already gotten on their level, have gotten their attention, and are using clear language, the lowered volume will further grab their attention.

Do you already follow us on social media? If not, we’d love it if you click (here)and follow us! We will cover this topic more on social media this week. Drop us a comment and let us know how you focus on the “do’s!”

If you haven't already, check out the free video from our course, "Love, Like, Enjoy" here:  Watch Free Video from Course

Want more like this? Transform your home with our Parenting 101 Course, and weekly tips from two Child Psychologists. 

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