The Best Positive Parenting Strategy For Getting Kids To Listen

Recently I polled my readers in my facebook group about what parenting topic they’d like to read about. Several moms responded with something to the tune of, “Help me with my stubborn child!” I had to laugh because I didn’t really have an answer. This is something I struggle with almost daily.

I think that’s mainly due to the fact that I myself can be pretty stubborn. My husband and I butt heads, because we are both stubborn and neither one of us wants to give in even when we’re wrong. So unfortunately I think my children are doomed to inherit some of our stubborn traits.

Being stubborn or strong-willed as a child isn’t necessarily always a bad thing. It could even be an indicator of future success according to a research study published by the American Psychological Association. But as a parent it can be really frustrating. Approaching stubbornness using positive parenting solutions can help.

I’ll never forget a time years ago when a mom I was babysitting for asked her son if he wanted a spanking. I laughed to myself when he said yes. Then he continued to misbehave and she had backed herself into a corner.

The only way she could deal with his misbehavior in that moment was to spank him. The option for him to make a good choice and change his behavior was pretty slim, since she had already set him up to fail.

Granted, he could have said no and made the decision to stop throwing toys at his brother, but he didn’t. Sometimes the way we say things as parents can set our kids up to fail and we don’t even realize it.

Different Parenting Styles

Just like the world is full of different types of people, there are different styles for parenting kids. Depending on your personality and your upbringing you may lean towards one or the other.

I prefer to use logical consequences and positive parenting styles. Since I’m realizing my kids have sensitive personalities, I also try to avoid yelling as much as possible. (Although, let’s be real, I do lose my cool and yell sometimes, especially when I’m trying to get them out the door.)

I also don’t believe in spanking my children. I’m not going to get into too much detail about why now, but I don’t think it helps. I also don’t want my children to grow up to be afraid of me.

When I was working towards becoming a registered play therapist, I learned about child psychologist Garry Landreth. I quickly realized that the way he approached parenting and therapy with children aligned with me. He believes that if we can understand the way a child sees the world, then it will help us understand why they behave the way they do.

The Choices, Cookies, & Kids Method

Landreth developed the positive parenting solution Choices, Cookies, & Kids when his 3 year old daughter had her hand in the cookie jar. He realized that in order for her to become a successful adult later in life, she needed to learn how to make the right choice on her own.

So instead of blurting out his usual response, “No, you can’t eat all the cookies,” he decided to give her a choice. He told her that she could choose to eat 1 cookie or that she could choose to eat none of the cookies.

Choices, Cookies & Kids involves using statements that help your child learn how to control their own behavior. If we are always telling our children what they can and can’t do, they’ll never learn resposibility. And it will be harder for them to know how to react when we aren’t there to tell them what to do.


  1. Offer two choices. One of the choices will be the “right choice” and one will be the “wrong choice” that will result in a consequence.
  2. Follow through with the consequence. Make sure to do what you said you would if your child chooses the wrong choice.

For example: Instead of saying, “Do you want a spanking?” the mom I mentioned before could have said this:

“It’s not ok to throw toys at your brother. You have two choices:

1). You can either play nicely with your cars and choose to continue playing with them,


2) You can choose to keep throwing cars at your brother and choose to have them taken away.”

Notice, how many times I used the word choice or choose. This is key, because it reminds your child that you are putting the responsibility on them.


Now let’s say that your child is throwing a tantrum in the middle of the grocery store, because they want you to buy them a toy. If you wanted to use this method instead of simply saying no, you would say something like this:

“I can see that you really want a toy, but we’re not getting any toys today. If you choose to scream you will be choosing not to watch tv for the rest of the day. If you choose NOT to scream and yell, you will be choosing to watch TV when we get home.”

If your child continues to throw a fit, then you would respond with, “You’ve chosen to give up TV for the rest of the day.”

If your child stops crying and calms down, then you would say, “You’ve chosen not to yell and scream, and now you can watch TV today!”

** You can use whichever consequence will have the most affect on your child. I allow my kids 1 hour of “tech time” a day and they really look forward to it. So I use this consequence most of the time, because I know it will usually work.


Be sure to be consistent and follow through with the consequence. If you don’t do what you’ve said you are going to do and allow your child to watch tv later in the day, this won’t work.

This may be really hard at first. It may seem like it’s too much trouble and you might feel like it would be easier to revert back to your old way of handling misbehavior. Any change is hard and your child will need to see you follow through with this technique a few times before they learn how it works.


For me, the challenge to adjust my thinking is worth it. Using positive parenting strategies helps strengthen my relationship with my kids, because they feel heard and understood. When I’m using these positive strategies instead of reverting to yelling and threatening, everyone in my family is happier! Who doesn’t want that?

Let me know in the comments if you try this and how it works!


The Youngest Child Syndrome

Getting Yours Kids To Listen