by Loretta Walker

I have noticed with myself, as well as with others, a tendency to use phrases that are really unproductive and useless in discipline. These phrases carry empty threats and meaningless comments. I really believe that children get so used to these sayings that they either tune them out or say in their hearts, “Here she goes again…” Are you a user of wasted words?

“If you do that one more time…”

This statement is a favorite with most women. The child might be on his third time with the last threat, yet the mother uses the statement again. When a mother says this, she is admitting that she is out of control and does not know what to do to stop the child’s behavior.

How much better would it be if instead of saying, “If you do that one more time…” you would say, “Now, Bobby, perhaps you didn’t realize it was wrong for you to slam the closet door. This is not something that we should do because it might break the mirror on the door, and it makes more noise than we really need. If you do it again, Mommy is going to discipline you for disobeying her. I know you didn’t understand this before, so I’m not going to punish you. After this, slamming any door in the house on purpose will be disobedience. Do you understand?” Then, if the child chooses to misbehave again, take him aside and administer the punishment you threatened.

“You kids are driving me crazy!”

This statement is usually done while a mother is running her fingers through her hair or nervously wringing her hands. This is another admission of lack of control. Perhaps the children are having a little too much loud fun or maybe even taking turns running to Mama with disagreements or arguments. Before a mother should let her children see her out of control, she ought to quietly excuse herself from the room to get a handle on her nerves and emotions. She should only return to the scene when she is calm and ready to deal with the problem at hand. This should not take more than a few minutes. You’ll be surprised at how much more effective your words will be if you take time to calm yourself before dealing with a situation.

“Why don’t you act your age?”

I believe most people use this phrase as a shock method to “wake up” children to something they are doing. I believe it is a sincere plea for the child to stop wrong behavior and do what his mother expects. My question is, “How can a child determine what is the proper action for his age?” I believe it is up to us as parents to train our children in how to act in given situations. Let’s not belittle them with this phrase, but let’s lovingly stop the behavior and, in turn, explain how he should be acting. Let’s don’t take it for granted that our children know how they should act or react. Let’s train them concerning what is acceptable behavior.

“Straighten up!”

“Straighten up!” is usually said in a harsh tone of voice. When taken literally, a child should stand at attention with this command. This is one of the phrases I constantly fight myself in using. The phrase itself may get the child’s attention, but again, I believe it is not a premeditated way of correcting a certain behavior. How much better for me to calmly say, “Children, stop immediately!” in my most demanding voice. The word “stop” doesn’t leave any question is their minds about what should be done. Making very direct statements help your children to do exactly what you need them to do to please you.

“You have a bad attitude!”

Most teenagers hear this whenever they say or do what the parents or leader don’t want. It is vague and may be a way of discouraging the child from expressing his feelings in a proper way. Children should be able to say what they think is fair or unfair; however, the way in which they do it may be the offense. For instance, when he says, “But Mom, that isn’t fair. I did the dishes all by myself yesterday,” you say, “Son, you probably don’t realize it, but when you say it like that, I feel attacked. It sounds like you vehemently disagree with me. You probably need to tell me about this so that I won’t give the job to you again, but the way you say it makes so much difference. How about next time saying something like, ‘Okay, Mom. I’ll do whatever you think is right. But, could I tell you something important that pertains to this situation?’ ” If you don’t teach your children the proper way to express disagreement, then their feelings will all go “underground” until they get older and bolder.

“You are being rebellious.”

Again, this term can only mean the child is not reacting as you wish. Teach him how to react positively. For instance, you say to your teen, “You can’t use the car.” He replies, “But Mom, you don’t understand…I never get to do what I want.” He uses words to express himself, but they also express an attitude of discontentment with authority.Teach the young person how to ask a question  that will not be an attack against authority.

I’m sure as we think of the statements we employ in our so-called child discipline that we can all use a touch of being more careful with our own statements.