If I have to say it one more time, I’m going to scream!!

scream, things that irritate me, kids and listening, one more time,

I am sure I’m not alone in this. Some days are better than others and some days are downright awful. Depending on the level of listening skills my children decide to display, I can find myself  endlessly repeating certain sentences and phrases. I’ve decided to categorise them according to the areas they pertain to. So without further ado; here are the things that make me want to scream!

Personal Hygiene:

You’d think this would be a no brainer! Children should want to be clean and sweet smelling? Apparently not! Sometimes they are just too lazy to be bothered to take care of these things themselves. Now I don’t expect my 4 year old to stay on top of this quite yet, But I certainly do think it is not too much to expect from a 6 or 8 year old.

  1. Wash your hands after using the toilet
  2. Have you brushed your teeth?
  3. Remember to flush
  4. Stop picking your nose
  5. Cover your mouth/nose when you cough/sneeze
  6. Lift the toilet seat! (boys)


My kids know the rules of behaviour, they are fully aware of the expectations we have of them. We have reward systems in place and sanctions for breaking these rules. YET, the following gems are repeated almost daily…*scream*…

  1. Stop annoying your brother/sister
  2. Stop chatting, it’s time for bed
  3. Did you hear me?
  4. Don’t whistle at the dinner table
  5. Don’t stand on your chair
  6. Sit up in your chair (at the dinner table)
  7. Don’t blow bubbles through your straw into your drink
  8. Stop shouting


In our home we work together to keep the house tidy and neat. I do the cleaning (which they may help with) but they have to keep their space tidy and neat. The expectation is that they tidy each evening before bedtime so that it is ready for a new start the following morning. I also want them to help out by putting things away, clearing the dinner table and helping to keep communal areas clear of clutter.

  1. Did you finish your homework? (only for my eldest as she is able to do most tasks independently, I sit with the younger two)
  2. Don’t throw your clothes on the floor, hang them up ready for tomorrow.
  3. Put your shoes away, don’t leave them for me to trip over.
  4. Tidy the playroom/ your bedroom
  5. Hang up your bath towel
  6. Make your bed
  7. Put your dishes in the sink

Routine tasks (that you do daily and feel should not even need mentioning as they are expected everyday!)

  1. Put your shoes on, we’re going to be late
  2. Please get dressed, it’s time for school
  3. Where is..Have you got …. your jumper/book bag/lunch box/ homework folder/coat/fleece/school shoe/clarinet
  4. Put your lunch box in the sink

But before you give up and loose it completely, it may be worth reading this. 

How do you discipline your child? Most of the parents would admit to having spanked their children at least once. In behavioural studies, 3 approaches to eliciting a desired behaviour can also be found in parents’ discipline styles: positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, and punishment.

Positive reinforcement entails providing an event (like a reward or praise) that increases the probability of the desired behavior being repeated. With negative reinforcement, a desired behaviour is drawn out through the elimination of an adverse event (e.g. child learns to wake up earlier for school every day because getting caught in traffic makes him nauseous). Punishment, often confused with negative reinforcement, involves increasing an adverse event to decrease or stop negative behaviour.

Child experts agree that, of the 3, positive reinforcement is the best way to draw out positive behaviour in children and even keep negative behaviour in check.

Positive Reinforcement VS Bribery

Some parents mistakenly associate positive reinforcement with bribing or giving material rewards. In bribery, you promise something bigger and more valuable than the behaviour you are expecting. You also tend to negotiate or beg, even increasing the value of the prize, just to make sure that the behaviour you wish is manifested. Giving a child verbal encouragement or small tokens after they exhibit a certain desirable behaviour does not qualify for bribery.

Other parents steer clear from positive reinforcers for fear that they might spoil their child. However, it is far from spoiling if the reward given is commensurate to the positive behaviour exhibited by the child. Material rewards need not be expensive things; small tokens like stickers or erasers are hardly decadent. Non-material reinforcers are highly recommended: a hug, a wink, and a compliment for a job well done.

Play Your Part

There is no specific age at which to start using positive reinforcement; children learn to relate reinforcers to their behaviour after several similar experiences and patterns. Good deeds that were reinforced at an early age become part of the child’s personality.

As children grow, their needs will differ in the same way that our expectations of them will expand. So, the reinforcers may change, but the general principle remains. The success of positive reinforcement greatly depends not on the child, but on the adult using it as a disciplinary approach.

When used successfully, positive reinforcement can develop a child’s intrinsic motivation. It can provide children some understanding of expectations and behaviour.

Get into Character

Here are key points to help parents effectively wield positive reinforcement:

  • Select and define the deed. Be clear on what is acceptable or non-acceptable behaviour at home. Provide observable, measurable progress by specifying which behaviour you want the child to repeat. Refrain from giving abstract directives. Instead of “Behave while eating” say “Sit on your chair, do not play with your utensils, and tidy up your eating area after eating the food.”
  • Choose your reinforcers. Reinforcers must be appropriate for – and as valuable as – the behaviour. They should match the child’s age, abilities, and the effort required to earn them. Kids have individual preferences. A reinforcer that is not significant to your child will bear no value. For example, preschool children will like getting stickers and hugs, while teenagers may prefer getting an extended curfew.
  • Timing is everything. Consistency is the key. Make it routine for your children. It helps them internalize rules and expectations. Also, immediately reinforce good behaviour. The shorter the delay between the behaviour and reinforcer, the greater the chance of strengthening the behaviour. When reinforcing a new skill, reinforce continuously. Once the behaviour has been established in the child, then you can gradually delay and decrease reinforcements.
  • Be diverse. Varying reinforcers prevents satiation in a child. Use your imagination to come up with different reinforcers. Opt for assorted non-material reinforcers. You will be surprised that not all kids want material things as reinforcers. Hugs, pats on the back, and words have equal, if not more, significance to them.
  • Complement praise with encouragement. Pairing reinforcers with words of praise and encouragement works best to retain or repeat a good behaviour. Praise usually denotes the person, and some judgment is made on him or her. Encouragement is taking notice of the behaviour or action, instead of the person.
  • An example of praise is “You’re a good girl” while “I like the way you helped the lady carry her bag,” are words of encouragement. By using words of praise and encouragement, it puts recognition and meaning to one’s presence and work.

Praising Points

International studies have shown that praise definitely increases people’s inner interest in activities. Anything too much or too little is proven ineffective. Too much praise is ineffective because it comes too easy and often reduces the value of praise. Too little of it and lack of consistency do not give it much significance, as well. Here are some keywords to remember when giving praise:

  • Immediate. Praise kids right after the good behaviour occurs. This way, they know instantly which behaviour is reinforced.
  • Specific. Say exactly which behaviour, action, or words you liked. For example, “Thank you for putting your toys back in the bin,” or “I like the way you shared your toys with your friends.” If the action was partly wrong, focus only on the positive side.
  • Frequent. Be consistent in saying words of praise every time kids do something good. Do not let any good or improved deed pass unnoticed. This reminds kids, positively, that a particular behaviour should be part of their way of life.
  • Sincere. Put emphasis on the feelings and values instead of judging kids as “good” or “bad”. For example, if you see your child politely asking for his or her turn in playing a video game, say, “I like the way you asked your brother if you could play after him. I think that was a polite thing to do.”
  • Varied. Use different praise statements. Repeating the same thing may lose its impact and value. Changing it is also one way to increase kids’ emotional vocabulary, which will help them express themselves as they grow.

Cecile Burton

Author: Carla v H.

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