Below is a list of phrases that decrease negative behaviors in children when used consistently and firmly using a caring voice. The specific behavior is listed in parentheses after the language “script” to use. Some phrases are effective with multiple behaviors, so you will find more than one negative behavior listed.
- I can’t understand that voice. (whining)
- I’m not sure what you are trying to tell me. (whining, temper tantrum, kicking, hitting, screaming)
- I’m sorry. My ears don’t understand that voice. (whining, screaming)
- That’s an outside voice. (using a volume that is inappropriate indoors)
- Hands are not for hitting. They’re for hugging/helping/holding things. (hitting)
- Ow! That really hurts me! (hitting, biting, kicking, pinching)
- _____ is not for throwing. Balls are for throwing. (throwing food, shoes, etc.)
- Maybe you’ll change your mind later. (using the hurtful words “I don’t like you” or “I hate you”)
- Toys are not for grabbing. Toys are for sharing. (grabbing, not sharing)
- Danger! (running into the street, not holding hands in a parking lot, not wanting to wear seat belt, refusing to go in car seat, touching dangerous items that are sharp, hot, etc.)
As smart as a child may seem, language understanding is limited. Too much information can confuse a child, resulting in the message and, therefore, the learning opportunity, being completely lost on the child. It’s best to keep language use when disciplining “short and sweet.” For example, using the word “Danger!” in a firm and caring voice with a 0-36 month old packs a bigger punch for learning to avoid dangerous objects, actions and situations than this long, fear-inducing message: We can’t go into the street because the cars are bigger than you, and if that big car hits you you’ll be smashed like a pancake, and you’ll have to go to the hospital.