Have You Become A Talking Head When Correcting Behavior? Passive vs. Active Interaction.

Whether it is because your child is misbehaving, doing something dangerous or simply using incorrect grammar, correcting him is a part of parenting albeit one of the more difficult parental duties.

We all take a shortcut sometimes when correcting our kids.  You see something out of the corner of your eye as you are busy with something else and throw out the “no!” or “stop that!” without directly addressing him.  Chances are, that same behavior will happen again and cause frustration on the side of the parent.  Why is he still doing that?  You already told him not to several times.  It is likely you passively told him to stop in one way or another.

The problem with passive correction is that your child is likely doing multiple things at once, including listening to you.  So your words become static around the task(s) on which he is working.  If this is something you do often, you eventually become a talking head where your child will tune you out more often than not.

So how do you become an active talker rather than a passive talker?  The answer is not as easy as with passive correction.  It requires you to stop what you are doing, stop what your child is doing, use direct touch and eye contact while requiring eye contact back on your child’s part.  It also requires you to come up with an age appropriate reason for the correction.

Let’s take a look at a scenario:  You are in the kitchen getting dinner ready and see your son “Connor” attempting to stand on an office chair with wheels.  Yikes!


“Billy! Get of that chair!” as you continue to chop onions.  Billy may have heard you and may have stopped trying to stand on the chair, but he will likely try it again soon.  Why?  He only really half-heard you because he was also watching TV and you didn’t give him a reason why he shouldn’t stand on that chair.


Stop what you are doing. Get over to Billy and remove him from the chair.  Get down to his level while gently holding him (I usually hold the arms), make eye contact (ask him to look at you if he is not) and calmly (not yelling) correct him: “Billy you should never stand on a chair with wheels because it could roll out from under you and you will fall and hurt yourself. Do you understand?”  Be certain that he does understand.   If he is looking at you like you have three heads, chances are, he does not.  So, rephrase the consequence in another way until he understands.  And my favorite ending to something like that is “Daddy doesn’t want to see you get hurt, so please do not do that again, OK?” Make sure you get a “yes” from him before you get back to your onions and he gets back to coloring and TV.

Active correction is not a 100% guarantee that a behavior will not happen again, but it has a much higher rate of success than that of passive correction.  I’m not perfect, no one is.  We all use passive correction, especially when we are busy or distracted.  But, reducing the amount you use will help your child focus on what you are saying and prevent you from sounding (to him) like the adults on Charlie Brown!