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Getting Kids To Do What You Want

By Sierra Black |

Parent and child

A mother guides her daughter

Psychology Today offers some wisdom on getting kids to do what you want, from someone who knows: a middle school teacher.

The secret: positive feedback. Don’t just tell the kids what not to do. Tell them how you want them to do it instead.

Seems like simple common sense, right? Yet we all know how hard it is to do in practice. When one of my daughters is climbing a bookcase or putting the smackdown on her sister with a toy, the first words out of my mouth are rarely, “I’d really like to see you do this even better.” They’re more likely to be, “STOP!”

Sometimes, you just have to holler, “Stop!”

But more often, even in those frazzled high-stress moments of parenting, we’d get better results if we tell the kids what we do want instead. “I’d love to see both your feet on the floor,” is better feedback than “Don’t climb the bookcase.”

Most parents are familiar with this. What really impressed me in the Psychology Today story was their example: they walk you through an imaginary contest, and make it very clear that being told what “doing it right” looks like will help you do your best.

Of course, this positive feedback thing doesn’t only work on kids. You can try it on your spouse, your coworkers and your mom too.


More by Sierra Black:

I Flunk Being A Girly Mama

Why I Don’t Miss Homeschooling

How Smartphones Made The Playground Fun

Stepmothers: Do You Really Love Your Husband’s Kids?

10 Ways To Squash Sibling Rivalry

More on Babble

About Sierra Black


Sierra Black

Sierra Black lives, writes and raises her kids in the Boston area. She loves irreverence, hates housework and wants to be a writer and mom when she grows up. Read bio and latest posts → Read Sierra's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “Getting Kids To Do What You Want

  1. Marj says:

    I’d love to see your feet on the floor does not suggest that climbing on the bookcase isn’t something you want. They could do so now, and climb the bookcase later, because you haven’t made it clear that you don’t want them to do that. I’m all for positive reinforcement, but when something is not okay, they need to be made aware of that. Nobody can live by rules they aren’t told about.

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