These encouraging directions offer guidelines for achieving appropriate behavior, expressing feelings

Published 9:05 am Saturday, February 6, 2010

QUESTION: Is it possible to correct or direct children and still be encouraging?

ANSWER: The following are examples of encouraging directions or instructions given to younger children. Words like these help children understand their feelings and those of others. They offer some guidelines for expressing feelings and achieving appropriate behavior. They help teach children self-discipline as well:

“It’s all right for Sally to be over there by herself; don’t worry about it. Sometimes people need to be alone for a few minutes, to think or to watch and listen.”

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“Don’t hit him and hurt him. Tell him. Tell me. Use the words you know. I can’t let you hit. I know how you feel, and it’s all right to feel angry. But you may not hurt other people here. Tell him with words.”

“Tony, the children don’t like to play with you when you knock their block buildings down all the time. They worked hard on those buildings, and you make them mad when you knock the blocks over. Here, let’s pick the blocks up and help rebuild the tower. Then you can build something of your own. Would you like to have me watch you build?”

“Ask her. Don’t grab it from her. People don’t like grabbing. Ask, then listen to her answer. Did she say no to you? Then let’s go find something else for you. I’ll go with you.”

“Johnny wants to do that puzzle himself, Pat. Here’s one for you and when you’re both done you can change with each other.”

“Sand is not for throwing; it stings people’s eyes. If you feel like throwing something, we’ll find a ball or a beanbag. In the sandbox, you dig and build, and you work with the sand down inside the sandbox. I’m serious about this.”

“Jenni, I’d like to see you finish that puzzle instead of dumping it on the floor. Here, let’s pick up the pieces and study their shapes. Maybe we can figure out how to do it.”

Pour the water carefully so it doesn’t spill over the top of the basin. You really have to watch to see how much is enough, don’t you? There, that’s just right.”

Effective parenting and care-giving requires our commitment to verbalize clearly and interact respectfully with our children in every stage of their development. Our children learn their style of communicating from us. We set the tone and the standard.

If you would like to talk with a parenting specialist about the challenges in raising children, call the toll-free Parent WarmLine at 1-888-584-2204/Lnea de Apoyo at 877-434-9528. For free emergency child care call Crisis Nursery at 1-877-434-9599. Check out

Maryanne Law is the executive director of the Parenting Resource Center in Austin.