A Blog from Your Kaiser Permanente Pediatricians in Northern California

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Positive Parenting? Start with Saying 10 Positive Things!

“Don’t touch that!”
“Stop yelling!”
“Be nice to your little brother!”

Sometimes as parents we may feel as if the day is filled with disciplining our childrenIt’s exhausting and defeating for both you and your children. While this is necessary in parenting, it can be done in a way that feels better for everyone. This is part of what we call “positive parenting.”

Whether praising or redirecting your child’s behavior, try to comment on their actions rather than saying that they themselves are “good” or “bad.” For example, saying: “Thank you for picking up your toys – that really helps me!” encourages a child to learn what they did right instead of hearing a simple, “Good girl!” Or tell your child what you want them to do rather than telling them what they’re doing wrong: So instead of saying, “Stop yelling!” try, “We’re indoors – use your inside voice.”

Just saying that your child was or is “bad” can also create deep feelings of shame without giving them an ability to learn from a mistake. Instead, say what action displeased you, such as, “I didn’t like it when you poured out the paint – it made a mess and wasted paint!” Or, “Biting hurts! Don’t bite.” You can say, “Lying is wrong,” rather than, “You’re a liar.” Speaking this way can reassure children that you still love them, but you don’t like what they did. It helps them understand they’re not bad, their actions were “bad.”

Finally, there’s this advice I was taught with my own kids: for every negative thing you have to say to your child try to find 10 positive things to also say to them through the day.

To do this, you may have to work hard to “catch” them being “good.” Try to notice even small actions you approve of and want to encourage, such as:

  • “Thank you for talking quietly in here.”
  • “You’re being so gentle with the kitty!”
  • “I like it when you walk with me and don’t run ahead.”
  • “You were so helpful by picking up that toy!”

You can then tell others what your child did that worked well: “I’m so proud of Carolina – she was so quiet and calm at the doctor’s office. She got an extra sticker!”

Raising kids is exhausting. But putting the energy into finding positive messages throughout the day will pay off with happy, well-behaved kids!

Find more resources for parents:
My Doctor Online:
Positive Parenting

American Academy of Pediatrics:
Disciplining Your Child