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Challenge: Keeping Your Cool

8 Ways to Reduce Nagging and Negativity Now

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8 Ways To Reduce Nagging (and Negativity) Now


Have you ever counted the number of times you say “no”, “don’t” or “you can’t” to your children throughout the day? It fuels negative energy…and it’s absolutely exhausting! Decrease the negativity in your home and parent more peacefully with these guidelines:

1. Shift to Positive Language
Take a moment and pause before you shout negative commands at your child. Replace the negative words that originally come to mind with positive ones. For example:
• Instead of “No running” use “Walking feet”
• Instead of “you can’t play with your gadgets until your homework is finished”, try “You can play X-box after your homework is finished”

2. Use “When and Then”
Rather than saying “No you can’t,” “You are not” or “I wont, until you..”
Try using the “When and Then” technique that Char Wenc, a nationally recognized speaker, professor and author on communication & parenting recommends:
• “When you pick up your toys, then you may watch TV.”
• “When you are dressed, then you may have breakfast.”
• “When you eat your dinner, then you may have dessert.”

3. Use Kind Language
“Feel free” and “You may” sound more pleasing than their negative counterparts.
• For instance: “Feel free to play with your gadgets after your homework is finished”
• With younger children it is important to be specific. Rather than “Clean up your mess,” try “Blocks go in the box” or “Laundry goes in the hamper.”

4. Offer choices with “Either/Or” and “You Choose”
Power struggles are caused by a child’s normal and healthy need for control. Give your child some control. Offer a choice. Choices also encourage children to think and help develop problem-solving skills. Here are some examples:
• “Walls are not for coloring, would you like a big roll of paper or would you like to use chalk outside?”
• “Would you like to stay at the party and play nicely or go home, you decide”
Parents: make sure you are okay with both choices and follow through!

5. Address Your Problem, Not Theirs
In certain situations, it will benefit you to emphasize that it is your problem, not your child’s. Your child will feel less defensive and you will sound less bossy! Here is an example I recently used with my daughter:
• Rather than “Don’t interrupt me when I am on the phone,” I explained my problem, “When you talk to me when I’m on the phone, I can’t hear what Grammie is telling me” (I might even add, “maybe we are discussing your Birthday gift)
• Rather than saying “You never help me,” try saying, “I could use your help and I would like you to put your laundry away”

6. Take You Out of It
In other situations, taking you out of it can help prevent a power struggle. Remove the “I” from your language with these examples:
• Instead of saying “I need you to take a bath now,” try, “It’s bath time”
• Instead of saying, “I want you to do your homework now,” try, “Time for homework” or “It’s homework time”

7. Use Fewer Words
We talk too much and after a few words our kids stop listening. Instead of wordy commands and lengthy lectures, try to use one word or simple phrases. In some situations, even non-verbal communication works.

Instead of the command “brush your teeth,” try these examples:
• In a kind tone, use only one word like “teeth”
• Use non-verbal communication, in a friendly way, hand your child the toothbrush and depending on their age with the toothpaste on it.

Replace lectures at the dinner table with these examples:
• Use one or few words like “napkin” or “knee down”
• Use non-verbal communication: give “the look” or calmly remove your child’s dinner plate when he throws his food

Other tips to stop undesirable behaviors include:
• Use a simple phrase like “That’s enough”
• Use “Rewind,” “Re-set” or Do-over” which tells the child to make a different choice
• Use non-verbal communication: put your hand out to remove a toy your children are fighting over

8. Do Something Unexpected, Creative or Use Humor!
• Use a timer for the night-time routine. Have your kids play “Beat the Timer,” can they finish their tasks before the timer goes off?
• Use dry erase boards for checklists. Kids can check the boxes as they complete tasks.
• Use a funny voice to give instructions or speak through a megaphone.
• Mix up your words with examples like “Trush your beeth,” “Bake a shower,” or “Bead a rook!” My son loved to decode those phrases and happily completed each task.

Of course it is impossible for any parent to completely eradicate negative language, however, these tips provide alternatives and can help reduce the nagging and negative language in your home.

Amy Hertzberg holds a Master’s in Social Work and is a Certified Professional Life Coach. She specializes in coaching women and parents. To learn more about Amy’s parenting classes and Aim Life Coaching, please visit

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