Expert Parenting Advice
Practical parenting tips and advice from experts around the world

A simple technique for dealing with bad manners in a positive way

How to correct your child's behavior without scolding or making them feel bad.

Imagine this: It is finally time to eat. You've cooked food, served up food for your kids, explained to them what every single item on their plate is, and now it is finally time for you to sit down and eat.

Just as you sit down, about to take your first bite, your daughter shouts "Water!"

No asking. No "Please". She just shouts "Water!" and then expects to be served.

How do you respond?

I used to deal with this by either getting mad and stubbornly refusing to get the water, or by telling her "That's not how we talk in this house. Ask me nicely."

But doing it that way felt negative, like I was scolding her (which I was, in a passive aggressive way).

When I spoke to Dr. Chelsey Hauge-Zavaleta, a neuroscientist and founder of Positive Parenthood, she shared a simple, positive technique she calls Recasting that you can use to correct your children's bad behavior, without scolding them or making them feel bad.

Since learning this technique, I've started to use it very often - when I notice my kids' toys lying on the ground, when they shout out commands at dinner, or even when they are fighting over a toy.

The big benefit of Recasting is that it teaches your child what they should be doing, instead of what they should not be doing. It places the emphasis on the positive, instead of giving attention to the negative behavior.

Dr. Chelsey explained it like this:

What I’m doing is I’m giving them the “pro-social behavior”. Pro-social just means what they should do instead of what they shouldn’t do. I’m giving them the pro-social and it’s such a vote of confidence. It’s to say, “I assume that if you knew what to say correctly, you would do it. So, I’m just going to give it to you. I’m not paying any attention to the yucky thing that has just happened.”

What happens for a lot of us is our kids do something that’s rude, or frustrating, or said in the wrong way, and we pay a lot of negative attention to it. And it feels bad for the parent, and it feels bad for the child, and it doesn’t teach the child what they are supposed to do.

Dr. Chelsey Hauge-Zavaleta

In my interview with Dr. Chelsey, she explains how using Recasting allows you to move away from nagging, and helps improve your relationship with your child.

She also shares how you can use Recasting to correct bad behavior in a positive way, without making your child feel bad.