Prevention Strategy #5: State Expectations in the Positive, Rather Than in the Negative

Eliminate words like: no, stop, don’t, can’t, quit (except for dangerous situations). Adults use negative words so often that children tune us out. Almost anything you might tell a child “no” to, can easily be rephrased in a positive and encouraging way. Using the positive decreases the likelihood for children to respond with defensiveness or resistance.

Here’s How it Works

  • Tell the child what you want them to do or are permitted/allowed to do rather than what not to do
  • Make a statement
  • You’re not asking a question
  • Adding “please” is polite, not positive


Incorrect and Correct Responses

Incorrect  Response Correct  Response
1.      Don’t sit on the  table.

2.      Quit poking Amanda.


3.      Stop moving around. I’m trying

to tie your shoe.


4.      Stop screaming

1.      Sit on the bench.


2.      Keep your hands to yourself.


3.      When you hold still, I can tie your shoe.

4.      When you are quiet you can go out to play.

How might stating instructions in the positive create more cooperation?


Image Source: positive-negative contrast 455580 []

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