Using Positive Language

Written by Kristin Tallackson, M.A., LPC (OH), LPC-Intern (TX)

Child and Adolescent Specialist


We are all guilty of using negative language, “stop that”, “don’t you dare”. In the moment, it is hard for caregivers to remember to stop and use positive language, especially when a child is doing something particularly dangerous. Research shows that children’s brains are not fully able to comprehend negative demands. Unlike adults, toddlers brains use much more imagery. When you use phrases or commands such as “stop running” their brain recognizes what running is and they continue to run. Ever feel like you’re talking to a wall and your toddler is ignoring you? This is why.

In order to effectively communicate, we have to use positive language and give our kiddos options. It’s connecting and redirecting. The following are positive examples you can practice using:


Don’t run ⇒ Please walk

Don’t jump ⇒ Please go down slowly

Don’t yell ⇒ Please use a quiet voice

Don’t hit ⇒ Please be gentle

Don’t ride your bike so fast ⇒ Please slow down

Don’t throw the toys ⇒ Please put them gently on the ground

Don’t talk to me like that ⇒ Please use kind words

Don’t grab the toy out of another kid’s hands ⇒ Please use your words and ask for the toy

Don’t play with the ball in the house ⇒ Please only use the ball outside

Don’t slam the door ⇒ Please close it gently / without making a noise

Stop that loud tantrum ⇒ I’m here for you, tell me what happened

Don’t interrupt me ⇒ Please wait until I finish talking