Have you ever stopped to listen to yourself when you are spending some time with your kids? Try to really focus, next time you’re spending time with them. Tune in to what you are saying to your kids. Count how many times you have used the word 'no.' Now, think about how many times you have used the word 'yes' in the same stretch of time. Ahh... bet it's not the same. Bet your noes out-number your yeses three to one. Don't worry, this doesn't make you a bad parent, or mean you're using an authoritarian parenting style. What it does mean is we tend to focus more on what kids shouldn’t do (keeping them safe, out of harm’s way, trying to instill good behaviors and manners, etc); a much more effective message is to focus on what kid’s SHOULD do. Not only does it change the message you’re giving, but it also allows you to focus more on positive behaviors …. The very behaviors you want to see more of.
As parents we do our best to keep our kids out of harm's way. We love them, and therefore we want to keep them safe. Kids, with their natural curiosity and affinity for getting into trouble, need to be able to experience some of these 'bad things' in order to learn valuable life lessons. That doesn't mean we should let them fall or fail; they do need to earn a few scrapes and bruises to learn valuable lessons on regrouping and rethinking situations, but we don’t want them to be hurt or quit due to frustration. It also means that we should say 'yes' more often.
Your son likes to kick his brother? Instead of saying 'no, don't do that' remind him of the things he IS allowed to kick. Or instead of getting grumpy about the new Crayola art on your tile floor, hand her an art pad and ask her to draw a masterpiece for the fridge. Tile floor has to be cleaned so the beautiful art can't stay there, right? Can't run inside but how about a trip to the park where there's plenty of room to run and climb.
Reframing ‘bad’ behaviors helps your frame of mine, too. Not only do you get to start focusing on positives in your children, you can use this tool and habit in your non-kid-related interactions as well. I’m not saying you should become Pollyanna, but most situations and interactions can benefit from a positive spin. It might take effort at first, but soon you’ll notice that this positive viewpoint is becoming a habit.
Another benefit to focusing on positive behaviors is that your kids will be more likely to tune in more, and listen to your comments and feedback. Why wouldn’t they, when what they hear is a good thing, or potentially permission to do something fun or good. Hearing ‘no’ or ‘stop’ all of the time is annoying; saying ‘no’ or ‘stop’ all of the time is annoying, as well.
Kids need rules and guidelines, don't get me wrong. But they also need to hear 'yes' more often. Saying yes will help them tune in more often. Yes is positive, and yes makes them feel good. I dare say it’ll make you feel good, too.