“Yo, I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want!”

For those of us of a certain age this sentence – and arguing with our friends about which Spice Girl we were – was probably one of the defining moments of our childhood or adolescence. But guess what, the wise-words of the Spice Girls can still be influential for us in our parenthood.

Let’s be honest, for most parents preceding sentences with, “Don’t…” or “Stop…” is probably quite commonplace.

But let’s take a step-back for a second and imagine putting ourselves in our little one’s shoes.

Imagine it’s your first day at a new workplace, you take something for your lunch and go to put in the fridge.

But then one of your co-workers says to you, “Don’t put your food in the fridge.”

This would be pretty confusing, right?

Now imagine that you don’t have the communication skills to ask where you’re supposed to put your salad…how on earth would you navigate this situation?

Okay, I know I’ve asked you to suspect your disbelief for a minute in imagining you can’t ask a simple question, but really this is often the situation that your child is in as they go about their business of trying to understand how the world works.

In their early years children do not fully understand what is expected of them, or what is or is not appropriate or safe behaviour – so they go about trying to explore everything. They are innately driven to do this. When you tell them not to do something, they often will not have a clue about what you DO expect them to do.

So, before you go to your next “Don’t…” sentence….think ‘Spice Girl’!

Tell your child what you want, what you really, really want, rather than what you don’t want. Using clear, positive commands and communication with your child is a key part of evidence-based parenting programmes which have been shown to improve child behaviour and parent-child relationships.

An example may sound like this;

Rather than, “Don’t climb on there!”, try, “Come down onto the floor.”

Or rather than,“Don’t draw on the table!” , try , “Draw on the paper.”

Not only will it feel more pleasant for you to be giving a positive command, it gives your child more chance of doing what you want them to, and a subsequent opportunity for you to give them lots of praise and positively reinforce the appropriate behaviour.

So, no matter if you were a Scary, Baby or a Sporty, remind yourself that your Spice Girl powers can still help you in your parenthood!