There are a variety of ways to encourage children to listen to you through positive phrasing. I provided one example on my first behavior post “Compliance.”
Here I will provide another example of how to use positive phrasing to encourage children to listen. In this example I discuss a behavior in a classroom, but this principal can be applied at home as well.
Let’s say you are a first grade teacher and your student keeps tapping her pencil while you are giving a whole group lesson to the class. The student does not need her pencil during the specific lesson, as only listening is required. You keeps telling her to stop tapping her pencil, but she continues to do so…or stops briefly but starts again. This is a common scenario that I have seen in many classrooms where I sat in as an observer.
“Stop tapping your pencil” does not always work because children simply respond better when you tell them what to do instead of what not to do. Also, children with behavioral difficulties, such as those with oppositional defiant disorder, often don’t listen when you tell them to stop.
So what can you do in this scenario?
Here are some examples of short, clear directives that you can give to encourage your student to stop tapping her pencil.
“Put your pencil in your desk.”
“Put your pencil down.”
It is very important to give these types of directives in a neutral tone. Try not to sound angry, which may lead to their becoming defensive, or overly nice in which case they may not take you seriously.
Eliminate the word “can.” For example, “Can you put your pencil in your desk?” “Can you put your pencil down?” It is not a question for them to decide yes or no. It is a directive.
Try to think of other scenarios at home or at school where this principle can be applied. You can use this tactic with virtually any misbehavior that you need your child to stop, such as hitting, throwing objects, running, or yelling.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this tactic and how you have used or will use it with your children and/or students.
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