Acting Without Words Using Positive Discipline

by Heligirl on May 16, 2011

in Mom Tip Monday,Parenting Articles,Parenting Tidbits,Positive Discipline

I am such a firm believer in Positive Discipline and positive discipline advocate Jane Nelsen. Her parenting advice has made a real difference in my life. I follow her blog and receive her RSS feed. She posted the following great story last week. I was so inspired I asked permission to repost it here, hoping it might offer some insight for those of you like me who find yourselves yelling too much lately. Please let me know what you think, and if you like it, consider subscribing to Jane’s posts to!

Act Without Words – A Positive Discipline Tool Card

Diane promised she would never be like her friend, Sara, who was always yelling (often screaming) at her kids, “Don’t do that! Do this! I’m sick and tired or telling you!” On and on! It was difficult for Diane to be around Sara, and she felt so sorry for the kids.

One day Diane found herself telling three-year-old Seth, “Don’t do that! Come here right now! Pick up your toys! Get dressed!” And on and on! Fortunately she heard herself and said to her husband, “Oh my; I sound like just like Sara. Gently he said, “I didn’t want to say anything, but yes you do.”

Diane remembered what she had read in Positive Discipline Birth to Three about acting without words and decided to try it for one whole day. When Diane wanted Seth to stop doing something, she walked over to him, took him by the hand, and removed him. When she wanted him to come to her, she got off the couch and went to him to show him what needed to be done. When he started hitting his little brother, Diane picked up the baby and moved away without saying a word.

During a calm time, Diane sat down with Seth and said, “Let’s play a game. When I want you to do something, I’ll keep my lips closed tight and will point to what needs to be done and you can see if you know what I want without me saying a word. Okay?” Seth smiled and agreed.

When it was time to pick up his toys, Diane went to him, grinned and pointed to the toys while making a sign with her hands for him to pick them up””and then helped him, knowing that it is encouraging and effective to help children with tasks until they are at least six-years-old and can “graduate” to doing tasks by themselves. When it was time for him to get dressed, she took him by the hand, made a zipping her lips sign, and pointed to his clothes. Seth grinned and let Diane help him get dressed without a struggle””doing most of it by himself.

Later Diane shared with her husband how much more peaceful her day had been, and how much more she enjoyed her interactions with Seth. Diane added, “I know actions without words won’t work all the time, but this day sure helped me realize how important it is to at least get close enough to see the white in his eyes before I talk””and then to use more action and fewer words.

What do you think? Have you tried something like this before? I’m going to put it to work this week and see how it goes. I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Susan May 16, 2011 at 2:29 pm

Great reminder. Especially with little ones who are still developing language, actions speak louder than words. When you communicate non-verbally, you are forced to connect on a deeper level: eye contact, body language, and unspoken intention. This is the type of communication that really gets through to a child.

If my 8 yr. old son leaves his dirty clothes in the bathroom after his bath, I’ll call him to the bathroom and either point to them, or let him know that he forgot something (as I’m pointing to them). He’ll grab them and put them in his hamper. (As an aside, if you have a hamper that has an open top where the kids can throw the clothes into it from across the room, as the clothes are tossed into it, I usually yell out, “Score! 2 points!! Then, that sort of chore is more fun.)
Susan recently posted: How I Met My Angel

Lost In Mommyland May 16, 2011 at 11:48 pm

I love this idea.

Will give it a try as well.
Lost In Mommyland recently posted: May I Please

Previous post:

Next post: