I’d like to think I’m a calm person.

If you asked anyone I know they would probably say that I don’t shout, or lose my temper, or throw things out of windows. In fact at work, where I have a fair amount of responsibility and have to deal with a lot of pressure, I’ve been told that it’s obvious I’m angry because I do this:

Yet at home, it is becoming a bit of a different story.

Our eldest son NJ is eight-year-old and can be extremely strong-willed and I sometimes struggle to deal with it. If he doesn’t like something he can be very vocal about it, be prone to meltdowns and can completely shut down, regardless of who is around and watching. There are days that are a tiresome struggle of constant negotiation and reasoning. There are days where all I get is defiance and refusal.

Some days I’m tired of the bickering between NJ and Roo, his four-year-old sister. Some days I’m tired of them not getting their shoes on, or eating their dinner, or brushing their teeth. Some days I’m literally just tired from having no sleep from Jasperino (age 1) being awake all night.

I’m afraid to admit that at home I do shout, I do lose my temper. I don’t throw things out of windows, but I sometimes feel a bit like this guy:

It’s been bothering me a lot lately. I recently read Emotional Capitalists by Dr Martyn Newman, a leading psychologist and expert in emotional intelligence, and two things resonated with me.

First was how parents can negatively impact on a child’s self-confidence. In the book, he describes a child who is inspired to climb a tall tree all by themselves. One parent, who discovered their child at the top of the tree yells out ‘What are you doing up there? Get down at once!’

Another parent, however, chooses to encourage their child’s independence with a ‘Wow! How did you manage to get up there by yourself? Well done! Next time, let me know, so I can make sure you’re safe.’

The two messages are completely different but guess which one is more valuable in cementing a child’s confidence and self-belief?

The second bit of the book that got me thinking was a reference to an American study on how parents talk to their children. The study followed a group of two-year-olds and noted every time parents said something positive to them and every time they said something negative. On average, the children heard 432 negative statements compared to 32 positive statements per day – a ratio of 14 to 1.

I find that completely shocking and my first thought was that it couldn’t possibly be the case in our house.

But then I started listening to myself. I didn’t like what I heard.

The highlights in a single day:

  • Stop jumping on the sofa!
  • Leave your sister alone!
  • Stop kicking the ball around
  • Stop shouting (while shouting)
  • Stop arguing
  • Stop whining
  • No, you can’t

There were other days where even the first thing I said to them in the morning was a criticism: ‘Why are you not wearing socks?’, ‘Why haven’t you had breakfast?’, ‘How long have you been playing FIFA?’, ‘The TV is too loud, you’ll wake your sister.’

What kind of impact am I having on my children when all they hear is a blunt STOP! or NO! all day? Is it any wonder that they are having frustrated meltdowns or arguing or refusing to do what I ask? Where is their defining ‘Top of the Tree’ moment than boosts their confidence?

What is going to change?

I am determined to use more positive language with my kids. This doesn’t mean I’m going to let them do whatever they like or spoil them by buying them whatever they want from the shops, just so I can avoid saying no.

Instead, I’m going to find a way to say yes that suits all of us and focus on clearly telling them what they should be doing rather than what they shouldn’t be.

For instance, if I’m taking them to the supermarket, rather than start off by blurting out ‘Don’t run around’ I’m going to try ‘Help me choose the fruit, or go get the milk for me’. Rather than shout ‘Stop shouting!’ I’m going to try ‘Use your quiet voices, please,’ or ‘Take a breathe and talk to me.’

It sounds simple enough, but in practice I’m sure there will be tough times where I become frustrated with their inability to put their shoes on in the morning and slip into the default mode of firing out negative orders. I might even shout, lose my temper or still not throw things out of windows, but the crucial thing is that I’ll be aware and will be cutting back.

So this is where I challenge you to join in. Who wants to make their parenting life that little bit more positive? Not sure? Try listening to how you talk to your kids – how far into the day will it be before you give them a negative response? How about you share your ‘Top of the Tree’ moments below.


22 thoughts on “Positive Parenting Challenge

  1. The single most helpful thing I’ve done to rein my anger in is to learn about child development. That helps me make sure my expectations are appropriate for their age and not my default – grown adult. Eg children only start developing the ability to think rationally at around 6, so trying to reason with them before that is just setting yourself up to fail and them to have to deal with your failure.

  2. I think its so important to try to use positive supportive language when speaking to our children. Saying that though, it is really easy to lose our tempers and start shouting when our children are playing up. I definitely need to be more mindful of my language, and I am trying my best to do this at all times. #TriumphantTales

  3. This is a fab post positive actions and talking in a positive manner can save so much grief thanks for sharing excellent read #triumphanttales

  4. What a fantastic post this is. Thanks for sharing your experience, I look forward to seeing how you get on and I plan on being mindful, supporting and encouraging too. Thanks again,. Ro

  5. A really good post, sit, and for me, really resonant. I too easily turn into Shouty Daddy and it really is a work in progress for me to curb this, and still maintain order and discipline.!!

  6. Very well written! My son is 7 1/2 and I had to raise my voice once up to yet. Totally shocked him as he isn’t used to it. From very little I tried to explain to him why I say no or stop and it seems to work. I think, if a child understands the reason, it will more likely listen…
    With “tantrums”: I don’t know if you had the TV ad in the UK where the woman throws herself on the floor? I done something similar and it never happened again 😂

  7. I always enjoy reading your stuff. This post especially says a lot to me. As a general rule I think I’m fairly positive with my Daughter. I big her up as much as I can. But, I’m fully aware that there are times I can completelunch turn this on its head and be overly negative. One of the other comments mentioned reasoning with an under 6 year old is impossible. I need to remember that. #TriumphantTales

  8. I’m with you on this! I try so so so hard to use positive language and it can be done, although it is so hard! But it does make such a difference. I’ll be looking forward to read a follow up post in a few weeks time….? Thanks for joining us at #TriumphantTales, hope you’ll come back again on Tuesday!

  9. I’ve started doing this too off late, because I hate the way I sound when talking (mostly shouting) to my 4.5 yo. It’s always negative and there are far too many no’s…(he does push my buttons but don’t all kids?). I’m more conscious of what I say now and more importantly, the tone in which I say things (i noticed he was picking up on that and even asked me to talk nicely to him and not shout – ouch, that hurt!!!). I’m finding it’s made a huge difference:) Lovely post.

  10. This is exactly what I needed to read. I find myself shouting more than I should, I get so easily wound up and they know which buttons to press but they are also lovely, caring kids and we laugh and talk but I do feel like I need to speak more positivly to them, change how I ask or say some things and I am definitely setting myself this challenge! How’s this going for you?

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