Once upon a time, I saw a video somewhere on social media that went something like this:
Father of young toddler: “What does a cow say?”
Little girl: “Moo!”
Father: “What does a doggy say?”
Little girl: “Woof! Woof!”
Father: “What does a duck say?”
Little girl: “Quack! Quack!”
Father: “What does Mommy say?”
Little girl: “No, no, no, no, no!”
Poor mommies. It just comes with the territory: constantly setting limits and saying that two-letter word. It’s no wonder that “no” just happens to be one of the first words that enters a young child’s vocabulary.
If you’re a parent, hopefully “no” is not the only word you’re using. The problem with “no” is that it only takes you so far. Not only does the kid eventually wizen up and start fighting the “no” with the formidable “why?”, but it ultimately leaves you with a void.
Unless your kid is content sitting with their arms crossed and smiling (a highly suspicious behavior in my opinion), they have to direct their energy elsewhere whenever they hit a limit. And unless you’ve taught them where to direct that energy, they ultimately end up committing another crime. You say “no” again, they get frustrated, you get frustrated, and on and on and on you go all day until your husband comes home and you hand them over so you can go collapse and order pizza because there’s no way you’re cooking dinner after a day like that. Not that I’d know what that’s like, cough cough.
We’re three kids into this parenting game, and I think we’ve pulled together some pretty good strategies to avoid spiraling out of control like this too often. Instead of focusing on the “don’ts,” everybody is happier when we spend the majority of our time on the “dos.” The way we do this is to provide our kids with a positive behavior vocabulary from an early age. When they misbehave, they know how they need to be focusing their energy. And when they do behave, we can praise them for it!
These words also help our kids form good habits, which they’ll hopefully take with them as they grow older.
Sound a little intense for a two-year-old? Think again. This is one of the first words we taught our kids in matters of discipline and it’s often one of our first go-tos when dealing with behavior. We expect them to obey. This is different from the popular word “listen.” Listening has to do with paying attention, while obedience has to do with responding appropriately to authority. Our kids are expected to obey parents, babysitters and teachers the first time they are asked (in case you’re wondering, they can ask questions or request alternatives when appropriate, and there is grace involved. It’s not an authoritarian thing).
Kids are rough little creatures. They yank on you and walk all over you and other adults/children/animals. From the time my kids were interactive infants yanking on my hair, I would firmly pull their hand away, say “gentle,” and guide the hand in demonstration of what gentle looks like.
I think we all use the word “nice” a lot, but “kind” as well as “loving” more specifically address how children should treat other people. Sharing and taking turns is to be praised as kindness.
I really hope my kids have good manners when they grow up, and those habits start now. I’ll admit friendliness can be a weakness for our kids, so lately I’ve been talking more with them about making eye contact, smiling and greeting people. My two-year-old is shy and so we try to work with her to be “friendly,” with a wave or a verbal “hi.”
This is such a great word, I wish I’d started it sooner! It applies to quite a lot of discipline situations, from talking back, to manners, to kids cleaning up after themselves. It’s also an expansion of the obedience concept once they are a little older.
Oooooh this is a tough one. It gets to the heart of a lot of attitude problems. While kids might not naturally feel or act thankful, getting them in the habit of saying “thank you” and not complaining is at least pointing their hearts in the right direction.
Like “thankful,” this word is tricky because it addresses a heart issue—but then again, don’t they all? This is a good word to use when kids are just having a bad attitude for no good reason (good for adults too!). It helps them focus on the positive instead of the negative so they can enjoy their surroundings, not to mention make themselves more enjoyable to be around for everyone else.
Okay, this was the word of the day once on Sesame Street so I know I’m validated here. My two-year-old asks me for crackers 5,247 times in 30 seconds and I repeat this word over and over again. It’s starting to sink in. It also helps me.
- Self Control
In our house we say, “no fits” whenever a tantrum starts. To counter the “no” in that statement, the kids learn to control their emotions and express them appropriately by being introduced to the “self control” concept. Admittedly this is quite difficult for a two-year-old, but for a four-year-old who has been practicing deep breathing and counting backwards whenever he gets worked up, “self-control” is a big accomplishment that is highly praised.
Who doesn’t love a Mommy’s helper? Last weekend my five-year-old poured his little sister a cup of juice so that I wouldn’t have to roll my lazy bum out of bed. I was amazed and he was beaming. I’ve heard that they eventually morph into teenagers and that being “helpful” doesn’t hold the same weight in their minds. However, I’ve also been told that if they habitually helpful when they are young, it’s not a battle when they’re older!
P.S. Do any of these sound familiar? Several of these just happen to be the “fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5:22-23 😉
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