Get your kids focused on a positive challenge to avoid negative behaviour.

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Posted by: Sue Atkins

I am delighted to have connected with Seamus Lusk on Twitter as Impetus Engagement and here is a response to an article I wrote about Saying “NO” to your children with confidence.


“Sue Atkins helps many parents understand the intricacies of handling children.  Her useful advice eases issues parents can encounter.  On her website, Sue has an article helping parents say ‘NO’ with confidence.  Read her article here.  Her advice is great.  Let’s include a slight addition to further boost parents’ ‘NO’ confidence.

Sue succinctly outlines the benefits of boundaries, how to set and maintain those boundaries, as well as some things to avoid.  As a principal, I found teachers can have a similar problem with boundaries.  I addressed these problems by introducing positive boundaries and ways to engage children.

When asked about their ideal class, many teachers would respond with negatives: “no talking, no hitting, no throwing of items, no, no, no, no, no.”  This demonstrated that the teachers didn’t know what they wanted. Children need an alternative.  If they hear ‘no hitting,’ they will often continue hitting because ‘hit’ is all they hear.

The teachers were empowered by turning the negative statements on their heads. Don’t just set a boundary that kids constantly bump into, provide an alternative.  Teach children how to solve problems.  I encouraged my teachers to follow a 1/3 ratio of negative vs. positive.  All day long they bombarded students with positive choices.

At Impetus Engagement, we teach that there is a game underlying every interaction.  Figure it out and enhance it to maximize engagement.  Let’s give Sue’s readers some ways they can ‘enhance’ games that are already played in a super market.

I think Sue was spot on.  Finding ways to get kids engaged is the best solution.  One reason video games are so engrossing is that they challenge us.  Get kids focused on a positive challenge to avoid negative behavior.  Parents can use their shopping list as a seek-and-find challenge.  Select 2 items to find, one for yourself, one for your child.  Then walk safely to see who can find it first.  If there are siblings, give one item to each child.

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