Stop Saying These Things to Your Kids!

I went for a early childhood conference recently and was introduced to this article written by Shelly Phillips a little more than a year ago – ’10 Things to Stop Saying to Your Kids (and What to Say Instead)’. While I acknowledge that every child is different and there is no ‘one size fits all’ parenting style or technique of handling difficult situations, her suggestions are really very sound.

Here’s a short snippet of her post-

“Good job!”

The biggest problem with this statement is that it’s often said repeatedly and for things a child hasn’t really put any effort into. This teaches children that anything is a “good job” when mom and dad say so (and only when mom and dad say so).

Instead try, “You really tried hard on that!” By focusing on a child’s effort, we’re teaching her that the effort is more important than the results. This teaches children to be more persistent when they’re attempting a difficult task and to see failure as just another step toward success.

For the other 9 things to stop saying to your child, check out the link above.

It’s really hard to remember and stop saying all 10 things at once. A good suggestion will be to write yourself a reminder card for every one of these 10 Things to Stop Saying, and carry one different card with you every week to serve as a reminder. This way, after 10 weeks, you should have internalised all 10 things!


5 Ways to Keep Your Children Motivated

In his book ‘drive’, Daniel Pink divides motivators into 2 categories, ‘extrinsic’, such as money and other tangible forms of rewards, and ‘intrinsic’, where one does things based on their own, internal ‘drive’. He is of the opinion that while extrinsic motivators are great for linear, simple tasks, over reliance on this will eventually backfire, causing one to become unmotivated.

Although the book is largely a self-help book, part of his book also talks about parenting. He has also put up a list of ‘to dos’ in his book, to help parents nurture intrinsic motivation in their children. Here are 5 of his suggestions:

  1. Make your children see homework in a different light:
    – offer them autonomy over when and how to the work,
    – only do work that promotes mastery,
    – and make sure your child understands the purpose behind doing the work.
  2. Have a day every week where the child is free to explore and do whatever they want, without any restrictions.
  3. Make DIY report cards. School report cards are usually result-oriented, which cause the children to focus on getting results rather than the learning process. Make your own report cards based on the learning goals instead.
  4. Don’t bribe your child to do tasks. You can give your kids an allowance and also some chores, but don’t combine them. Your child will keep asking for rewards if you constantly associate tasks with rewards.
  5. Praise strategies:
    – Praise your child for the effort and strategy used to solve problems, not intelligence.
    – Only praise when there is a good reason for it.
    – Make sure your praises specific, a simple ‘good job’ is insufficient.
    – Praise should be given in private, not publicly.

For more about this, check out his book ‘Drive‘.


Effective Communication With Your Child

Recently we attended a seminar on effective communication with your child and were introduced to the National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (NAPCAN) Australia website. The brochures on the website are really useful, so I thought that I should share them here.

Here’s a link to the brochures page-

It contains several good articles in pdf format, such as 

(I have provided a link to the same pdf files here, in accordance to the copyright laws)

Do check them out! 

How to Deal With Your Child’s Challenging Behaviour

One method of dealing with challenging behaviour in children is to use the Antecendent-Behaviour-Consequence (ABC) Model.


Here’s what the model is all about:

Antecendent: The trigger for the event, what happens before the challenging behaviour takes place.

The action. In the case of challenging behaviour, this is the problem that we are trying to address.
Consequence: What happens after the the behaviour, be it a positive or negative consequence.Here’s an example:
Sally is eating ice cream. She drops the ice-cream on the floor, cries, and Daddy gets her another ice cream. In this case the Antecendent is dropping the ice cream on the floor, the Behaviour is crying in response, and the Consequence is getting another ice cream. If this carries on for a few times, Sally will learn that crying will get her the positive consequence that she wants.

How do we use the ABC model then? We need to change the A, B or C in the flowchart.Changing the Antecendent:

  • Give short and specific instructions, for example ‘turn off the TV and come to the bathroom for a bath’.
  • Make sure that you have gained your child’s attention before giving the instruction, use confident body language/voice while delivering the instruction and wait for a response from your child.

Changing the Behaviour:

  • Provide alternate behaviours.
  • Instead of just shouting ‘Stop doing that!’, first specify what behaviour you would like to change, then specify what behaviour you would like to see instead.
  • Communicate this alternate behaviour clearly to the child.
  • An example: ‘Don’t run and come walk slowly next to Mummy’.

Changing the Consequence:

  • We are most familiar with this. Instead of giving in to the child all the time, we can institute positive or negative consequences.
  • Positive consequences include:
    – Specific praise (to be done as soon as good behaviour takes place, not an hour, a day or a week later!),
    – Rewards,
    – Access to favourite activity (eg. playground),
    – Removal of unpleasant tasks (eg. cleaning the room)
  • Negative consequences include:
    – Planned ignoring (warn first, then use whole body language, persevere in ignoring, and expect escalation of emotions in your child!!),
    – Removal of desired objects and activities,
    – Time out,
    – Natural consequences (eg. minor scrapes and scratches due to doing things dangerously – use your discretion for this!)

Of course, challenging behaviour is not something that can be corrected overnight, so persevere!


  • Behaviour is but just a way that your child is using to communicate with you.
  • Challenging behaviour usually has a trigger.
  • The pattern of behaviour over a period of time is always more important than single or isolated events.

Teach Your Child Perspective Taking and Social Skills in 5 Simple Ways

Perspective taking is one of the essential skills a child will need to develop. To put it simply, a child with good perspective taking skills will have high empathy. But it’s actually more than that. Being able to figure out what other people think and feel will help the children to understand the intentions of people around them (peers, parents, teachers, etc). The result of this heightened sense of awareness of how other people think is a lower incidence of conflict, fights and temper flare-ups.Here are 5 simple things you can do to promote Perspective Taking:

  1. Help your baby/toddler tag emotions to words – verbalise their emotions (eg. happy, sad, frustrated, angry) for them. Do this often enough and soon they will be able to express their emotions as words rather than non-specific temper tantrums.
  2. Use everyday moments to your advantage – whenever a chance arises, use it immediately to talk about your feelings or your child’s feelings. Also, talk about other people’s perspective and feelings whenever you can.
  3. Use your reading sessions to talk about emotions too! Discuss what the book characters feel and why they feel that way.
  4. Help and teach your child to make friends. Talking to strangers doesn’t naturally to most adults, so why should children have it any better? Give you child some tips and encouragement to make the first step!
  5. Last but not least, children learn by emulating their parents and the adults around them. Remember to set a good example and take the perspective of your child as well!
Perspective taking is one of the 7 essential skills that Ellen Galinsky believes every child should have. For more information, check out her book ‘Mind in the Making‘.

mind in the making

Jill Kuzma, a Speech-Language Pathologist also has a fantastic webpage with lots of teaching ideas for not only Perspective Taking, but also Conversation skills and Emotional awareness.