* When possible, give choices. This allows you to set reasonable limits and time frames, while allowing the child to feel in control. Instead of: “Clean up your room and the playroom right now!”, try: “I see that there is a mess in your room and the playroom and I would like both of them to be cleaned before we go to Bubby’s house later today. Which one would you like to clean now and which one would you like to clean after lunch?”
* Language is more than semantics. Try using and in your directive instead of but. “You played so nicely with your Lego today, but you forgot to clean up” negates the child’s positive play. Instead, replace with: “You played so nicely with your Lego today AND you also forgot to clean up.”
* When possible, ditch the lecture. When we yell: “How could you… Don’t you know… If you do this you know what’s going to happen? And then after that… Because in our family….”, all kids hear is “blah, blah, blah.” Wait until you have calmed down and are no longer in reactive mode (yes, parents need time outs too!). Then reach for a short sentence or two, which will more likely be heard and received.
* Instead of you telling them what you don’t like about their behavior (yes, 5-year-old Malky knows that you don’t like it when she takes the bottle away from her baby sister), ask them to evaluate their actions. “Is what’s going on in the next room with the bottle something Mommy would be happy about?” After Malky evaluates her own actions, you can then calmly ask her to please return the bottle to the baby.