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How to Talk to Kids to Improve Behavior

how to improve behavior at home

I can tell you from over 19 years of experience, that being calm, encouraging, positive, patient, and consistent far outweighs yelling, punishment, and threats in any situation with any child, regardless of what you believe has or hasn’t worked in the past. Research and experience show that positive parenting/teaching strategies win every time and why is that?
Just like adults, kids want their opinions, feelings, ideas, and choices to be heard, validated, and at least sometimes honored. Many times adults push kids’ feelings to the side “I don’t care how you feel. You will do it because I said so.” Some children handle this type of treatment well and still grow up to be kind-hearted, responsible, adults. Other children, especially those who are very strong-willed will push back and fight you to the death, regardless of how much you yell, punish, or medicate them. And my question is…can you blame them?
Yes, they are children and are expected to respect “authority” but just like adults, if something does not feel right to them, they resist it. It is the nature of free will which is “human nature.”


Compromise, meeting a child half way, and being understanding about just how little control they have and what frustration this causes, is key. Through this type of thinking, you can provide a child with as much freedom and independence as possible while still guiding them to make good choices, have good values, and eventually be productive, contributing members of society.
When anyone feels like their feelings are ignored or dismissed, thoughts are not heard, and desires are not cared about, they feel frustrated, angry, and disappointed. A life time of frustration, anger, and sadness leads to one miserable adult. And when you are miserable, you feel like nothing matters. When you are depressed, anxious, and angry at the world you are not at your best, and how can we make good choices when we are jaded by a lifetime of dismissed feelings.
How do I know all of this? I know because it happened to me. My mission is to uplift people’s spirits with the hope of creating an overall positive change in the world. We should all be working towards the common goal of a peaceful planet. Starting at the very core…our children…is the key to making this happen.
While there are a ton of ways to promote positive behavior in kids, this article focuses on the way you say certain things to children. First I will give some negative examples that I have heard over and over again over the years, followed by some positive examples that often lead to cooperative, pleasant, and positive behavior. Think about which kind of talking you most often do with your kids and how it may affect their behavior.

Examples of Negative Statements

  • “If you don’t clean your room I am throwing all your toys in the garbage!”
  • “I don’t care what you want, turn off your game and go to bed now!”
  • “That’s it! You didn’t share! Get in the corner now and don’t come out until I say so!”
  • “You’re interrupting me while I am talking to an adult! Are you kidding me? How dare you? Sit down now and don’t get up til I say so.”
  • “Put your head down and don’t move!”
  • “Stop being a baby! I don’t care if you don’t like the food. You’ll eat what I give you!”
  • “Oh god, you’re such a cry baby.”

While some of you may think that people don’t really talk this way…it is extremely common and actual appears to be a more popular parenting style than using positive language. I have also frequently observed this type of language in the classroom. No person, child or adult wants to be spoken to like this.

Examples of Positive Statements

Specific Praise

  • “You worked so hard on cleaning your room today.”
  • “I love how you are trying new foods. You ate really well at lunch.”
  • “That was so nice of you to share your blocks with your sister”
  • “Wow! That was a great choice when you helped clean up the game pieces!”
  • “You worked so hard on your math homework! You should be so proud of yourself!”
kids (3)

Empathetic Statements/Choice:

  • “I know you are upset because your sister will not share her snack with you. It is frustrating when you can’t get what you want. Can  I get you a snack? Would you like grapes or yogurt?”
  • “I know you don’t like doing your homework. Is there anything I can help you with? Let’s break it into small parts and you can take breaks to do something fun. Here…do ten math problems and then you can color or watch a video for five minutes before completing the next ten.”

Related Article: 3 Ways to Use Timers to Encourage Homework and Chore Completion

  • “I understand that you are mad because you don’t want to put your toys away and go to bed. Choose one toy to hold while we get in bed and read a story. You can pick the story too. Good sleep is important and tomorrow there will be time to play again.”

People always say that “kids need to learn the way the real world works” or that “people aren’t going to be helpful or understanding and they need to learn how to deal with it.” Is that the kind of world we want? Do we want to settle for a crappy world and say that we need to be harsh with our kids in order to prepare them, or do we want to do something about it? The number one thing that will make the world a better place is to make it all about the kids and constantly treat them with the respect that we constantly demand from them. If they grow up with confidence and happiness they will most likely grow up to make healthy choices leading to an overall improvement in society.
You can argue or dispute this article, but nothing will change what I have practiced myself and witnessed with my own eyes for the past 19 years with a 99 percent success rate. Yes, there will always be children who have challenging behavior even with all the right strategies in place, but if you haven’t used positive behavior support as your first step, I wouldn’t even be entertaining the idea that “a child has behavior problems” or needs psychiatric treatment.

Recommended Articles:

17 Ways to Get Your Kids to Listen to You and Show You Respect
How to Use Natural and Logical Consequences to Improve Children’s Behavior
Top 5 Reasons Your Kids Don’t Behave and What You Can Do About It
Top 10 Discipline Tips for Kids with Oppositional Defiant Disorder
12 Effective Strategies for Children with ADHD
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