11 positive phrases you can use when your kids don't listen
A loving approach can build positive relationships and communication, especially when your kids don't listen to your instructions.
Children are like sponges. They absorb everything they see around them. Kids — especially when they are younger — also like testing and pushing boundaries. As a result, we often find ourselves raising our voices more than we like because — let’s face it — sometimes kids don’t listen. So you must be wondering how to deal with a child that doesn’t listen.
They can be stubborn and even when they understand your tone, they may choose to ignore it.
That’s when positive phrases come into play. They help rebuild your communication with your children and serve as a better approach to talk to mini-humans than angry words or accusations. How to deal with a child that doesn’t listen is always with positivity, rather than negativity.
How to deal with a child that doesn’t listen: 11 positive phrases to use
Let’s take a look at 11 positive phrases you can use when your kids don’t listen.
1. Say: ‘What do you need to remember?’
Instead of: “Be careful!” or “Stop doing that!
How to deal with a child that doesn’t listen is by replacing an instruction with a positive affirmation that engages your child’s critical thinking abilities. This is because kids get tired of hearing the same instruction over and over again and prefer to ignore it after some time.
However, when you tickle their intelligence with words that sound different but mean the same, it takes them by surprise. Alternatively, you can also give them specific instructions.
So for instance, instead of saying, “Be careful, everybody is watching!” you can try “What did we discuss about playing in the park?” or “Please move slowly while walking on the edge.”
2. Say: ‘Please talk softly’
Instead of: “Be quiet!” or “Stop yelling!”
Some children are naturally louder than others. So if they have trouble speaking softly, you can show them where it’s okay to be loud (e.g. the park) and where they should keep their voice down (e.g. the library).
A combination of light touch, eye contact and whisper can be quite effective in getting the message across to children. So when you want them to quiet down, don’t go about yelling at them yourself. Use a softer tone instead and instruct them to “Please talk softly in the library.”
3. Say: ‘What did you learn from your mistake?’
Instead of: “You should know better kid,” or “Shame on you!”
Rather than reminiscing about past behaviour, it’s best to focus on motivating them to do better. This will encourage them to work on themselves in the future and be cautious of their actions.
So for instance, instead of screaming “Shame on you for shouting!” you can try “What did we learn from this mistake?” or “How will you do this better next time?”
4. Say: ‘Please __________’
Instead of: “Stop!” or “Don’t do it!”
Any form of negative communication is not received well by people in general. Screaming “I don’t want this bread,” or “Don’t give me another latte” at a waiter will not really get you what you want. It’s the same with kids.
Opt instead for positive communication so that there is no undue pressure on your relationship. You can ask your kids to do what you DO want them to do, instead of what you DO NOT want them to do.
Your instructions, therefore, could be “I want you to go and sit with your sister,” as opposed to “Don’t sit here!”
5. Say: ‘We’re running late and we need to move fast’
Instead of: “We’re going to be late,” or “Hurry up NOW!”
While it is important to teach children about the value of time, it is also necessary to allow them some down time. You can set some time periods where you can allow your kids to move slowly and get into the groove of things at their own pace.
But be sure to tell them why they need to hurry with softer positive tones, especially if your kids don’t listen. Try instructing them with “Aunty Mila is waiting on us, let’s not keep her waiting. Shall we leave now?”
6. Say: ‘Let’s add this toy to your birthday list, shall we?’
Instead of: “NO! We can’t buy this,” or “There is no need.”
We may be in a position to afford our kids’ favourite Lego game or that coveted Barbie. But we often do not have the desire to purchase it. In the same breath, we do not hesitate to spend that much on something we want.
It’s okay to not indulge your child. But there is always a way to get that message across without bringing finances into the picture.
Instead of saying, “I don’t have money for your Barbie,” you can try “This looks amazing. How about we make it a special birthday present for you?”
7. Say: ‘Stop, take a break. Now tell me what you want’
Instead of: “Stop your whining!”
Kids learn almost everything from us. And that makes it our responsibility to model a behaviour we want them to emulate. Therefore, when you give them instructions, make sure to remain calm and breathe slowly so they may do the same.
If you are anxious and panicking yourself, your child will pick up on that energy and mirror the same behaviour. So instead of saying “Stop it, you’re making it worse,” just try “Wait. Take a moment. Now tell me what happened.”
8. Say: ‘You must respect yourself and others around you’
Instead of: “Be good,” or “Don’t be rude.”
Imparting moral values is as crucial as teaching kids how to go about doing basic things in life. It should always be a part of parenting. But nothing can be taught easily with a strict approach. A soft-but-firm method always wins if kids don’t listen.
Hence, as opposed to instructing them with a general statement, be specific in your instructions. Tell them what you expect them to do and restate it whenever needed.
Use “Remember to respect yourself as well as your friends when you get to the playground.”
9. Say: ‘I need you to ______’
Instead of: “Stop it!” or “Why are you doing this again?”
Most yelled-out instructions go past kids. Not because kids don’t listen, but because negative communication doesn’t work with them. They respond better when we use a non-accusatory tone. Also, it helps when you give them specific instructions telling them exactly what you want and expect.
So instead of saying “I do not want you to go and sit in that room,” you can try “I need you to sit right next to Kevin during dinner.”
10. Say: ‘It’s okay to cry’
Instead of: “Stop being a baby,” or “Why are you crying?”
When kids don’t listen, remember that they respond swiftly when you do not put undue pressure on them to hide their feelings. Don’t force them to be unnatural and hide their emotions. Instead, you can empower them and teach them that they can get past a particular feeling by concentrating on more important activities. Tell them it’s alright to express themselves.
This will help them come out of the feeling of sadness and build their self-esteem. So avoid arguing over why they shouldn’t cry. Let them vent their emotions. But be gentle with your support. You can even try, “It’s okay to cry. Don’t worry, everything will be fine. I’m here for you.”
11. Say: ‘I will always love you, no matter what’
Instead of: “I won’t love you if you don’t follow this,” or “Nobody wants to love an undisciplined child like you.”
Your unconditional love is the foundation of positive parenting. That means your love for your child doesn’t depend on how well he follows your instructions or his level of behaviour. You love them with all your heart, as you should.
Feeding this affirmation is the key to help them build their confidence and self-esteem and more importantly keep your bond intact. So instead of saying “I don’t love you anymore because you are badly behaved,” try “I love you no matter what, BUT I need you to be more gentle when you speak to your classmates next time. There is no need to yell at them.”
Positive parenting doesn’t mean always being soft on your kids. You can easily instruct them. And all that it needs is for you to be specific in your instructions and positive towards them, even when they commit a mistake. And that is how to deal with a child that doesn’t listen!