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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Disciplining Children With Nonverbal Cues

Ever feel like you're talking to a brick wall when it comes to disciplining your kids? Seem like nothing you say is heard or obeyed? Maybe it's time to come up with a different discipline strategy. If you're tired of talking and having to say the same things repeatedly, why not try silent discipline?

Start disciplining with nonverbal cues. Sit down with your children and talk honestly with them. Tell them you aren't happy with how the disciplining has been going. Own up to the fact that you may not have been as respectful to them as you should have been, if that's the case. Never mind that they may have been disrespectful to you, too. Apologize and ask their forgiveness. Tell them you're willing to try a different way of discipline if they'll be responsive to it. Explain that you'll use nonverbal cues when you need them to do something differently. Let them help you decide what the cues will be. Here are a few suggestions:

Nonverbal Cue                                                    Translation
Hand on child's arm                                               You're talking back, please stop
Shaking head                                                         No. That's unacceptable.
Index finger pointing up.                                         Please wait. I'll be right with you.
Hand on heart.                                                       I love you.
Thumbs up                                                            You're doing great!
Hand up                                                                 Stop
Index finger to lips                                                  Quiet

It may be that your child might like to have some nonverbal cues to use for you, too, such as:

Hand on your arm when you're talking to someone     I need to say something.
Finger twirling in the air                                               I have to go to the bathroom.
Tug on his ear                                                             I'm bored/I'm ready to go.
Hand cupped behind ear                                             I didn't hear you.

Of course, many parents use standard American Sign Language with their children, too, and find it to be useful, especially for nonverbal children. Using cues ratchets down tension. It keeps parents and kids from yelling at each other and it bonds you because you have a secret code no one else knows. There's power in a loving touch. It conveys so much more than spoken words. Nonverbal cues work beautifully with some, but not all, children. So if you're frustrated with verbal communication with your kids, try it! Even a slight diversion from the norm is a nice break for everyone and it may make your usual form of communication easier to hear if you return to it.

Do you use nonverbal communication or discipline with your children? What are your cues and how do they work?


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