We tend to underestimate how negative tone affects children. Find out why this is a less effective form of discipline than a positive parenting. In this article we will share what the research of neurobiologists says and how to speak more effectively and find positive phrases to improve tone and communication with the child.
Are you familiar with this story:
“My three-year-old son can be persistent and at the same time express it loudly. But most of the time he is open to communication.
Everything changed three weeks ago.
We had returned from visiting relatives outside the city.
When we got home, my children were overexcited from all the emotions during the trip. The children started fighting. My daughter wanted personal space. And my son took that as an encouragement to see how much he could challenge her.
I was pregnant and tired and I did some parenting from the couch.
“Don’t annoy your sister!”
“No, you can’t jump off the couch table!”
But none of that helped. ”
In such situations, what we need to do is take a step back and evaluate our behavior.
You will find that the child responds in the way the parent provokes him.
Make a “contract” with the children that if you use a negative tone towards them, they will tell you. Also, if they use it first, you will tell them. Then the offender must apologize and continue talking in a friendly tone.
Almost immediately, children will change their way of speaking. But expect the habit to be harder for you as parents.
How negative language affects children
Research shows that a negative tone is actually ineffective.
For young children, negatively worded discipline is much more difficult to understand.
“STOP” does not say anything to the child. It fails to make a logical conclusion about what it should not do (why) and what it should do instead. For preschoolers and young children, this is difficult to achieve.
Some may argue that you just need to add what the child needs to stop and the problem is solved. But that makes the problems so typical.
When we say “Stop harassing your sister,” we are asking the child to do a double processing. This means that he must process what we have told him not to do and make sense of what he must do instead of the forbidden action.
On the contrary, a positive parenting is much more effective because it tells children how to cooperate.
Common examples of negative language and alternative positive parenting phrases:
Don’t run → Walk calmly, please.
Stop annoying your sister → Calm your hands down.
Do not throw toys → Please keep your toys on the ground.
Stop interrupting me → I see you want to talk to me. Wait a minute, please.
Leave the child alone → Come play here.
Do not hit the child → Be careful with the child, please.
Stop shouting → Please lower your voice. / Speak calmly and I will understand you.
Calm down! → Take a deep breath. You can overcome this!
You don’t need another toy. I can’t buy it! → If you really want it, why not save money and buy it yourself?
There is nothing to be angry about. Relax! → I see that it is difficult for you at the moment. Let’s try it together.
In addition, any positive parenting reinforces good behavior, it is clear and shows care. This is because the parent responds in a way that is not simply the default of “No” or “Stop.” When we use the same phrases without provoking much thinking and logic, our children are more likely to ignore us.
Neurobiological reasons for the use of positive parenting
Leaving aside the double processing, there are even more compelling reasons to use positive parenting. And that comes down to research in neurobiology.
In general, science has found that when a child (or anyone on the subject) is told “no,” one of the following modes is activated: “combat,” “escape,” “freeze,” or “faint.” In this state of mind, children are more likely to react emotionally. The result is a child who is likely to feel angry, avoidant, or helpless. In contrast, when the child hears positive phrases, their prefrontal cortex is involved. The area of the brain responsible for resilience, curiosity, openness, problem solving and even morality.
Consider this example.
A little boy splashes around in the bathtub when the parent realizes that it’s already bedtime.
The mother grabs his robe and says, “It’s time to go out!”
“No. I am staying here!” – He declares.
By default, the parent says, “Get out of the tub, you won’t play anymore!” And maybe take him out of the tub. The child will start screaming, the parent will have to wait for his hysteria to end.
But if the parent is already mentally prepared:
Instead, when the son says he stays in the bathroom, his mom admits that she understands how he feels.
“Oh my gosh! You like to play in the bathroom, don’t you? ” Recognizing his point of view, the child is now in a more pleasant state.
The kid nods. Then the parent says, “I know you’d like to stay here. It’s time to go out now, what do you say? And take a bath again tomorrow? ”
But the benefits don’t stop there.
Before answering, the parents should have a pause, then think a little bit and then answer. After some time, the reactions will not be nervous and you will naturally respond with empathy and positive attitude.
Also, in your efforts to use a positive parenting, you may start saying “yes” much more.
No, you can’t eat a cookie → Yes, you can eat dessert after dinner.
Look, I can’t play right now → Yes, I can play with you after I’m done writing this email.
I don’t want a mess right now, so you can’t make your own slime → Yes, you can make slime, as long as everything is cleaned up after you’re done.
And this, in turn, works as an invaluable model for children to be more flexible and say yes more.
Everything we pay attention to and emphasize in our experiences and communication makes new connections in the brain. Where attention is directed, neurons are activated.
An important conclusion for the rejection of negative language in favor of positive parenting.
Does that mean you have to change everything you say or never use negative language again? Simply put: No. There are times when “No. I’m not even commenting that. ”Or“ Stop now!” are necessary and perhaps more effective. However, the more you strive to use positive language, the more you will realize that situations that require a “firm no” are much rarer than you ever thought. The overall emphasis on using more positive language will bring positivity to the whole family. Children become more resilient and less reactive.
Always return to this approach when you need to, because with its help raising more open-minded children with problem-solving skills is much easier.
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