Author: Sophie Robertson, Paediatric Occupational Therapist and Clinical Manager
4 min read
Do you often find that your child shuts off or has a meltdown when you say the word “no”? Do you notice that they keep going with their task when you ask them to “stop”? Words such as these can have a feeling of finality associated with them, and a developing brain can have difficulties processing the words or instructions that follow.”
Simply changing the words “no”, “stop” and “but”, to “yes”, “pause” and “and”, can have a big impact on how your child perceives and processes instructions. This change may make these often challenging times easier and calmer. Keep on reading to find out why.
Begin with “YES”, avoid “NO”
Saying “yes” first tells your child that you hear what they are saying and acknowledging their request or want. Saying “no” as your first word in your response may make it feel like they will never get what they are asking for. You may be saying “No, not yet, we can have ice cream after dinner” however they may only hear “no” and not process the rest of the sentence. They will only hear “No, blah blah blah”. Instead, try shifting the way in which you respond by saying “yes” first… “Yes, I love ice cream too. We can have some together when we finish eating dinner”. Your boundary hasn’t changed as both responses are allowing the child to have ice cream after dinner, however one is likely to cause your child to shut off and potentially meltdown, the other is allowing their minds to remain open and more likely to have a positive outcome.
Use “PAUSE”, avoid “STOP”
The use of the word “pause” implies that the activity your child is doing can start again once you’ve spoken. It is a more positive phrase, and it creates an opportunity for open dialogue with your child. They will be more likely to understand why you paused them. On the other hand, “stop” has a sense of finality, and may feel like the activity may never start again. It can create a defensive mindset, and negative associations mean your child is already prepared to fight back. They will be less likely to hear why you stopped them, and it also makes the word “stop” less powerful in the times that it is absolutely needed i.e., during emergency and safety situations. A great example of how you can change this language is “Pause! I can see you are about to play with your toys. We need to finish our dinner first before we can play”.
Use “AND”, avoid “BUT”
Has anyone ever said to you “You worked hard on this project, but…”? You hear the word and immediately feel negative about what you’ve achieved. What happens if we take the word ‘but’ out? “You worked really hard on this project, and I think we need to spend a bit more time figuring out this section tomorrow”. The shift between “and” and “but” creates a more positive spin on challenging situations. Your child is more likely to remember and associate positive memories to similar situations. Using “but” tends to negate all that came before it, and anything before it becomes unimportant and forgotten. A phrase we use a lot in sessions with our clients is “It is tricky AND you can do it”. Why don’t you try it the next time your child is having difficulty completing a task.
So, here is a challenge for you. Try saying “YES” instead of “NO” over the next week and see what comes of it. Is your child more receptive to what you say? Will you notice less meltdowns? For more information on ways to manage meltdowns, visit MoveAbout’s Facebook and Instagram pages.
If you feel like your child is struggling to with regulation, communication, or social skills, talk to your paediatrician or an occupational therapist for further guidance. Contact MoveAbout today.
GET IN TOUCH