Tips &

Tips &

Positive Phrasing

May 2020
Janthea Brigden
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All of us, regardless of age, can become frustrated if constantly told what we cannot do.

For toddlers in particular, their whole lives can become governed by:  “No. Don’t. Stop. Leave it. Get off!”

As a child I had a series of maths teachers who repeatedly told me what not to do and emphasised what I was doing wrong.  I failed my Maths O level.

Many years later, in order to get my EYP status I had to take GCSE maths and passed in five weeks with 85%. I had an amazing tutor who constantly focused on what I was doing well and came up with creative ways to help me understand how to correct the mistakes I made.  Turns out I’m quite good at maths!

The Benefits of positive phrasing.

 * Positive phrasing is a great way to enable change, allowing the person you are addressing to really hear what you are saying.

If I leave the dishcloth in the washing up bowl when there is water in it and a family member says:  “Stop leaving the dishcloth in the water, it’s really disgusting, you keep doing it!”  I’m likely to feel annoyed, put down and belligerent.  

The alternative:  “Putting the dish cloth in the sink caddy helps it to stay cleaner and it will last longer ” is perfectly reasonable. The logic also makes it easier to remember and to repeat - desired out come achieved!

 *Positive phrasing is simply about re framing what you don’t want and thinking about what it is you DO want.  

 Ask yourself -  “Why do I want this change?” The ‘why’ part is important, because sometimes we criticise and demand change when it’s actually our own problem.

EG: A TV programme which is on loudly in the living room. What do I want? I want the sound turned down.  Why? Because I’m trying to read.   An easier and more logical solution would be for me to move somewhere else and allow the others to listen to their programme.

*Children are being given permission to do something, albeit slightly differently, instead of being banned totally from doing it.

“Walk fast” instead of “Don’t run,  “Use a quiet voice” instead of “Don’t shout”.

*Offering choice is even more likely to encourage children to change their behaviour.

eg:  “Walk like a tortoise or a space person”  “Whisper, or pretend you have lost your voice”.


Telling children what they can do instead of what they can’t, is effective in achieving the desired result.  So next time you hear yourself telling someone what you don’t want...

·      Pause..

·      Think about what you DO want

·      Ask yourself WHY?


How could you change the following? Hop over to our Instagram channel for the answers!

 *You are blocking my way!  

*Don’t push like that!

*Stop yelling!

*Don’t touch the glass vase!