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How to avoid the tug of war!

I'm certainly not averse to to a little caution - especially if the children are wielding a knife, or heading for a road, so words like 'Don't and No' aren't forbidden vocabulary in our home. However, there are alternatives that we can replace them with from time to time to ensure that the culture in our home is peaceful and connected.

Here are a couple of alternatives


A question is always a good way to engage with a child who is making an 'interesting' choice. They sometimes have good reasons for doing things that might seem a little cheeky. A quick change of narrative takes the harshness out and helps them to engage their brain.

For example: If I told you what I did on the weekend, you might tune in, but if I asked you what you did on the weekend, you'd need to engage. It's a different part of the brain, it requires a response.

In the same way, if we ask children a question, they're less likely to tune their parents out, like they might if they've heard too many cautions or negatives that day.

It doesn't wield any less authority, it's just a gentler way to communicate and a better teaching tool.

For example, instead of saying "Don't leave the table." you could ask "Why are you leaving the table?"

It's the same with

Don't play with that

Don't eat that

Don't go out there

Don't pull the dog's tail


They're all interchangeable with a question.


Let your child know why something is bothering you. There are a hundred good reasons for this, but three of them are:

They learn what bothers you - and why

They feel valued

They learn to express themselves.

Let's take the same example about getting up from the table during dinner.

"I find it hard to relax and enjoy dinner when people are getting up and down from the table." It doesn't mean it can't be followed with other action, but it's a good gentle starter and they may well respond.

It's the same with anything they do, you can let them know how it feels...

"I worry when..."

"It concerns me when..."

"It hurts my feelings when..."

"I find it hard to concentrate when..."

Of course, I wouldn't be sharing these if they weren't tried and tested. They aren't alternative ways to control a child, that's never going to be a helpful parenting tool, but they are ways to keep us calm and avoid that defensiveness that can lead to a battle of the wits, a battle of the wills...a tug of war - because they will be living in a less negative environment.

Give it a whirl, let me know how it goes.




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