There’s been a big change in our household this month, and it is all thanks to a small change in the way we express ourselves. Rather than saying “Don’t throw your food”, we say “The food stays on the table”. Rather than “Don’t hit mommy”, we say “We keep our hands to ourselves”.

Not surprisingly, our son reacts more favorably when we take this approach. If there’s one thing a toddler doesn’t like to hear, it’s the word “NO”. When you tell your child they can’t do something, it’s up to them to figure out what they can do; a young child doesn’t have the capacity to figure that out on their own, so they are more likely to act out.

Telling our son what he can do has made all the difference in the world. When we say “We keep our hands to ourselves” he knows exactly what’s expected of him. “We sit on the couch” is much more understandable than “Don’t stand on the couch”. By including an acceptable action (sitting), we’re implicitly excluding actions we don’t want him doing (like jumping, dancing or standing).

Aside from our son’s improved behaviour, we’re finding the positivity floats into other areas of our lives with our language shifting to phrases like “We should get something else” rather than “We can’t afford that”. Overall, it’s improved our moods and reactions to everything around us; the change has been extraordinary.

Next time you’re about to tell your child not to dump sand out of the sandbox, take a second to think about the way you’re expressing your wishes. You’re really asking is for your child to keep the sand inside the sandbox. Before long, this kind of thinking and the benefits it can bring will come naturally.