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How to Get Your Kids To Do What You Want

Even if you believe you can describe your child with a quick, quirky label– “he’s the quiet one” or “she’s the drama queen”– stop yourself before you do so in front of your child. From birth to five years old, Professional Parent Educator Vicki Hoefle says children begin to define their role in the family. How you refer to your children during this decisive time period can heavily influence how they see themselves as people and as a part of the family dynamic.

Inclined to label your child based on their problematic attributes? You might want to think twice. Over time, children begin to accept your descriptions of them as true, and behave that way more often. That is why Hoefle believes it is best to stop yourself before you label your child based on their behavior that gets under your skin.

If you frequently refer to your child as “the one who can’t sit still,” for example, this type of behavior will continue because you’re defining this label as their role in the family. A more complimentary label, on the other hand, can institute a sense of pressure for your child. Labeling a child as “the smart one” or something similar may make your child feel the need to always be the smart one, and result in feelings of failure when they are not performing at their best.

As their parent, you might know that there are other personality traits to your child besides these labels, but your child needs these pointed out as well so it is not only the negative ones that stick.

“It really comes down to finding the language and what I call ‘shining a spotlight’ on those times when your child is something other than ‘the wiggly disruptive kid,’” Hoefle says. Throughout the day, make a point to find the positive characteristics or qualities your child exhibits. Pointing these out more often will start the process of redefining your child’s role.

“As parents, it’s our job to look deeper and say, ‘what else do I know about this kid? What other strengths and talents does this kid have that I’ve overlooked because I’ve been focused on something negative?’” says Hoefle.

Redefining how your child thinks of themselves and their role in the family dynamic relies on ending your use of labels that pigeonhole or have a negative connotation, and being the one to point out the moments where your child’s behavior is more desirable.

Helpful advice on Building Your Child’s Self Esteem.

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