As I like to remind parents, there isn’t any empowerment more effective than self-empowerment. Because being positive is so enabling, it is best to displace thoughts, communications, and discipline practices that are destructive. Continually ask yourself how what you want to communicate or the lesson you want to instill can be put in a positive way.
For example, saying, “You are bad tempered,” has the same meaning as, “You need to work on controlling your temper.” However, the first labels the person, whereas the second enables the person. People change more by building on their strengths and aptitudes than by working on their weaknesses. This does not mean that an area of weakness should not be worked on, but it does mean that a parent’s emphasis should be on what the child can do, rather than on what the child cannot do. The simple belief that something can be done is the spark that ignites the brain to act.
When it comes to discipline, if a child is acting irresponsibly, acknowledge the action, but do not call the child irresponsible. Label the behavior, rather than the person. “Do you consider that the responsible thing to do?” and “That was not worthy of you,” are better choices than, “You are irresponsible.”
Also, refrain from arguing. It only fuels hostility and diminishes healthy communications. Arguments rarely focus on solutions, and reasoning with someone who is upset is futile. One approach is simply to hold up your hand, palm out, making the “stop” sign, or signal “time out” with hands overhead like a referee. Then determine a later time to resolve the issue.
Finally, avoid attempting to talk young people out of their feelings. Young people have the right to feel hurt, upset, and disappointed. Their reactions should be acknowledged without being condoned. However, negative feelings should not be allowed to infect other members of the family. If the person chooses to anger, let it be done in isolation.