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I have worked with children with special needs as a mom, and a professional for over 16 years, and one of the things that I have found to really help children with special needs and all people to make good choices is using Positive Language.   Most people don’t really understand what positive language is.  It does not mean using praise, or being optimistic, or having a happy tone of voice – although those things might help as well.  Positive language literally means that you tell the child what you want them to do instead of what you don’t want them to do.  This is simple in theory but takes time and commitment to put it into practice.

Positive Language

Positive language means you say what you want children to do instead of what you don’t want them to do.

I used to teach classes on this when I owned a home for children with disabilities, and I have applied this as a mom.  In the class I would tell my staff to close their eyes and imagine not yelling, not hitting someone, and not smoking.  Go ahead and try it.  What does that look like?  For most people, and especially small children and people with special needs, it is impossible to visualize NOT doing something.  For most of us, not yelling brings up a visual of someone yelling, not hitting someone brings up a mental picture of someone about to hit someone, and not smoking involves a cigarette.

That’s how our minds are naturally wired.  So when we tell our kids to stop yelling they really may not know what we want them to do.  That makes it very hard for them to mind and causes frustration for everyone.  When we say what we want them to do, we have much better success.  “Use your inside voice”, or “Please talk quietly” are things that can easily be visualized and understood and therefore they are easier to do.

Positive Language

This communication technique is very powerful and can make a big difference in how our children react.  It does take thought from the parents though.  Sometimes we don’t know what we want them to do.  But if we don’t know, chances are that they don’t either.

Here are some examples of Positive Language to get you started:

  • Instead of “Don’t run in the house” try “Remember to walk not run when you are in the house.”
  • Instead of “Don’t hit your sister” try “Keep your hands to yourself.”
  • Instead of “Don’t talk with your mouth full”  try “Chew and swallow all of your food before you speak.”
  • Instead of “Don’t throw that truck”  try “Put the truck down on the floor softly.”

These are just a couple of examples but I hope they give you a good idea of how to use positive language with your children.  Remember I used to teach professionals full classes on this so it’s ok if it takes you time to get the hang of it and make it a habit.  I still hear myself  occasionally saying things like, “Stop yelling!”  This effective communication technique is also useful for communicating with spouses, and even people in the supermarket.

Positive Language is also very useful in our own self talk.  Positive self talk helps us to focus on what we want to do instead of what we want to stop doing.  If we are telling ourselves not to eat that cupcake, all we see and think about is that darn cupcake.  Success will be very hard.  But if we tell ourselves to find a healthy snack, we can do that without even thinking about that silly cupcake.  The cupcake loses some of it’s power.  I find for myself it’s a lot easier to use positive communication with other people than it is with myself, but I am much more successful when I have goals that are positive in language.

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Posted by Frugal Mommy

Hi I’m Heather, a busy, happy and very frugal mom of 8 amazing kids! My journey to become a mom of 8 has been a bumpy one that has included infertility, being a foster parent, adoption, and special needs parenting. I share the things I've learned raising my big unique family.

10 Comments

  1. What a great reminder to parents and teachers as well. In my third-grade classroom, I try hard to use this kind of positive talk. It is not always easy, especially in the heat of the moment. Practice helps. I often have to stop myself before speaking to make sure that I am staying on that positive side. I always have better results when being positive. Thanks for sharing this important post!

    Reply

    1. Thanks for your comment. It really does help.

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  2. I love the way the site looks now, incase I haven’t told you. So this is something funny but this also works with guys haha. Instead of telling him “Don’t do that, I hate when you do ____” he is way more receptive to “Will you do this, I love when you do_.”

    Reply

    1. Thanks for the feedback on the site! I have been working on it. You are right! Works really well with spouses and boyfriends. It really works well with everyone.

      Reply

  3. THANK you for this. I’m sooooo in the trenches with my 20-month old and starting to seriously start the power struggle thing. I really struggle with how I should format my words and not lose my cool when he is throwing a tantrum or not listening. This is seriously so helpful!
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    1. I remember that phase. This should help. It really helped me with my toddlers. Good luck!

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  4. Such a great reminder! I tend to do the STOP THAT with yelling because sometimes I think they will hear me more..but in reality it will just do harm later on than good. I am constantly making a conscious effort everyday. Thank you for sharing over at #Bloggerspotlight linky party, hope to see you again! Pinned!

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  5. This is a great post and a great reminder. I have often fallen into the trap of simply telling them what NOT to do.

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  6. I think this is very true! It reminds me of one of the best tips I got from my advisor when I was student teaching. She told me always tell kids what you expect. Don’t expect them to know. For instance, don’t expect you kids to know they shouldn’t run in the house. Tell them and like you said tell them the positive not the negative. Please walk in the house. Great post! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. That is a great point. It is easy to assume our kids know not to do things like jump on the couch but we really do need to let them know our expectations.

      Reply

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