I want to start a new series of small posts here on Sugar, Spice and Glitter offering postive parenting scripts for common behaviour issues in children. I really try to phrase myself positively for the children, but it can be hard in the moment to figure out what to say.
I don’t want my suggestions to be the only ones on offer — if you have alternative suggestions for ways to positively support children, I’d love to hear them in the comments!
Throwing rocks has a universal and old-as-time appeal. It’s easy to want to say “don’t throw rocks,” but that isn’t always very effective because it doesn’t provide an alternative for the very satisfying action of throwing rocks.
The point in this list of positive alternatives is not to avoid being direct or firm. Misbehaviour that is serious needs to be directly addressed and children need to know what rules and structure exists, which is important for them to feel secure in the expectations that we have for them.But sometimes using negative scripts is ineffective, and though children are aware of the rule they need an opportunity to channel their impulses and satisfy sensory needs elsewhere. By changing the focus from what we don’t do, to what we can do, children are more likely to be receptive to changing course and accepting the new information.
What to Say Instead of “Don’t Throw Rocks”
- “Wow! You have a super throw! Can you show me your super throw with this ball?”
- “Throwing rocks can hurt our friends. Can we throw a ball with our friends instead?”
- “Rocks stay on the ground. Can I help you put the rocks back gently, or would you like to do it yourself?”
- “What are you trying to do with throwing rocks?” (Use this alternative as a prompt for conversation, where you can discuss alternatives.)
- “Please put the rocks down.”
- “Hm, what might be a better choice to throw?”
- “Only balls get thrown.” (Great for kids who make strong associations quickly, or for younger children — Ella had this said to her since 5 months old!)
- “Do you want to come look at this beautiful garden with me?” (Appropriate for using after an initial reminder with a younger child who is struggling with impulse control, not necessarily for an older child who is aware of the rule.)
- “What are rocks for?” (Have a conversation about their real purposes, highlight that throwing isn’t one of them.)
- “Would you like me to show you a game where you can throw a rock?” (Teach hopscotch and controlled throwing of the rock. If near a lake, that’s always an opportunity to teach rock skipping.)
What alternatives to “don’t throw rocks” would you add to this list?