Correcting Behavior: Is Less Talking More Effective With Kids?

Have you ever had one of those horribly long days? My husband’s job is demanding, and he had to work extra hours on Thursday. It was just me with the kids for over 12 hours. I’ll be honest, by lunchtime, I felt like I’d already had enough.

The kids were not listening! How often did I need to say, “It’s not snack time” or “Please go play nicely with your sister.” No matter what I did or said, my kids kept arguing, and I was tired of it.

I wished they would respond to my requests, “Okay, mommy,” and walk away. Unfortunately, on that long day, that never happened. But through the years I’ve learned a more effective way to make kids listen and help with the constant whining at home.

What if I told you we had it all wrong and when it comes to correcting misbehavior less is actually more?

Now before we get into it, it’s important to note. I’m all for expression of feelings and teaching kids coping skills. It’s good for kids to learn about emotions and how to handle uncomfortable situations.

But there are some moments when I’ve found I need to stop talking! 

Me arguing with my kids over snack time accomplishes nothing. It doesn’t change the situation. We were getting nowhere because no boundaries were made or enforced.

My rationalizing and talking when correcting behavior was ineffective. I learned there is a more effective way to discipline and change a child’s behavior. Keep reading to find out how!

Before we get to the strategies, we need to talk about why we have the urge to explain every little thing to our kids.

Why do we over-explain?

As a school psychologist and woman, it’s my natural instinct to explain everything with words.

“It’s not nice to take a toy from your brother. How do you think he feels when you don’t share with him? Why do you take the toy as soon as he starts playing with it?”

Nothing is wrong with the statements above, but they aren’t effective in stopping the negative behavior and getting your child to listen!

Here is another example, my son asks for a snack for the 20th time, and I tell him, “No honey, it’s not snack time right now.” He continues to bug me for a snack.

Instead of explaining why he can’t have a snack, I need to set a firm boundary instead of going on and on. For example, “Mommy said no.” I’ve even heard people say “Asked and answered,” meaning their decision hasn’t changed.

When it comes to correcting behavior, excessive talking is not the answer.

So What Can We Do Instead of Talking?

This post contains affiliate links for products we love.

Looking for a more effective way to discipline? Try correcting misbehavior by using less words and counting to 3! Trust us, it works. Leave your emotions out of your parenting.

When our kids were young, our pediatrician recommended the book 1-2-3 Magic to us, and we were amazed at how effective it was to count to 3 and use a take 5 break as a form of correction. 

Correcting Behavior: Is Less More? 

It’s so simple! 1-2-3. I know, it sounds crazy. How could counting possibly work better than explaining to your kids what you want them to do?

As a side note, this is not a sponsored post. We found this helpful book as parents and want to share our personal insight as well.

I believe part of the reason this method works is because it eliminates the chance to argue or debate the answer. It’s a clear way to set a boundary without fuss. And kids thrive when the boundaries are straightforward.

The best method for correcting behavior? Stop talking so much when disciplining. Kids start to tune us out when we use too many words. Try this effective parenting tool to discipline your kids effectively.

So when my son started bugging me about the snack, and I already said no, I started counting, “1.”

It takes a little time for your child to understand what’s happening, but eventually, with practice, they get it.

Since implementing the strategies from this book, we’ve had so much less arguing!

When we use the 1-2-3 method, I’ve found our house is calmer, there is more joy, and our kids know what to expect when it comes to correction.

I still find moments to teach our kids social emotional skills using my words, but in the heat of the moment, I’ve noticed using fewer words is best for our family. 

Test it out, and see what happens when you use fewer words in the heat of the moment. I also highly recommend reading 1-2-3 Magic. There is no arguing, yelling, or spanking involved.

Lastly, I want to encourage you. Parenting isn’t easy, and there is always something we could be doing better. But I like to think of it as a journey. We won’t be perfect parents, and that’s okay. Perfection isn’t required. It is valuable to stay teachable and learn along the way, making the best of each moment.

How do you handle correction in your home? Have you found talking or rationalizing makes an impact one way or another? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Kids respond best when a parent's correction leaves out the emotion and there isn't much excessive talking. Use this when correcting behavior.

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  1. I am going to try this out! My daughter is almost 4 and just in that defiant pushing her boundaries stage. We have a 4 month old too and I think she has some jealousy, but it is getting better. I did a post on my blog about out transition from one to two. It hasn’t been easy, and maybe I do need to learn to just stop talking sometimes.

  2. As a 3rd grade teacher and mom of 7 and 4 year olds, I am surrounded by misbehavior 😉 We’ve tried lots of different things at home. We also use 1-2-3 and since November we have been using a mini clip up chart like I have in my class- we keep it on our fridge for each girl. Each time they clip up they get a sticker for their chart and each time they clip down they take a few minute break to think. Once their sticker chart is full, they can turn it in for $5 (it usually takes them 2-3 weeks to fill their chart).

  3. This is a fantastic post. It’s so true that kids might not always be listening, but their eyes are always open and they are always watching. It’s important to model the type of behavior we expect.

  4. This is so fantastic! I couldn’t agree more! I’ve found our kids do way better with less talking and beIng more direct. I think as they get older that changes. Thanks for sharing!

  5. I so agree with this – and am working on talking less!! I have two teenage daughters, and my “talking” too often turns to lecturing, which I know they tune out. Stating simply and directly what I need to say, then backing off and letting them process that usually works out well. Obviously when I talk less, I’m more open to listening, and that’s definitely a plus, too!

  6. As a teacher for over 30 years, a mother of six and a grandmother of 14 what I can tell you for sure you already know, all kids are different. They all receive information in different ways. But what they all want and all need is basically the same. They want to be loved and listen to. I used 1-2-3 Magic on my children when they were very little and it worked beautifully on 2 of my children but the others needed something different. That’s why as adults and parents or teachers or counselors or psychiatrist or psychologist we need to have a very large tool belt. Our children are smart and they adapt very easily some within 2 weeks some within 2 days of a behavior-modification being used. But one thing almost always works after the crisis has passed of course it is what I call table talk. The children often times look forward to this one on one chance to lovingly and calmly Express what their side of the story is or was in a situation. This is the time where you get to do your best molding of the Mind. And it starts with you listening and then asking questions to provoke thought within the child. Again not all children are going to respond the same. Table talk for some may look like building Lego buildings as you talk about a situation or coloring pictures or cutting paper or cooking together but what it is is unerupted and unhurried time devoted to just that person no matter how old they are. Sometimes time is the greatest gift plan ahead and most of the time you can avoid a crisis. Give them warnings before you get in the car, before you get in the store, before that unwanted behavior has a chance to erupt. My grandchildren love what my children call Granny law moments. It’s when they get to talk to Grandma and they should all of that stuff they give their parents down and they just take time to think. We can do no more that model our best behavior even for our grown children. Most of the time when they’re in the Heat of the Moment they just don’t want to hear the words come out of their mouth that was said to them as children. They are afraid I’m turning into their parents and this thought has altered their parenting skills and in turn is changing how they’re disciplining their children. And by the way discipline can be thought of as a way of teaching rules, self control, expected behaviors, it does not have to be punitive but thought moreover as consequential. If more people understood the consequences of their behaviors then with understanding they can make change. No matter how old they are. Perhaps then we can look forward future Generations of kind and well thought individuals.

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