Can the use of informational statements change children’s behaviour?

By Britta Marsh on 3 Dec 2018
Categories: Behaviour

My five year old daughter is very strong willed and we engage in power struggles daily. It happens over the littlest things – brushing teeth, food, packing up toys etc etc. Everything is hard work.

Her favourite word is NO! and has been for some time. She’s quick witted and determined, which are both admirable qualities, just not when you are trying to leave the house on time!

I am the first to admit I don’t always manage her behaviour in the most effective way. Although, it’s hard to know what the most effective way is. I’ve tried to be firm, as well as using rewards and punishments. I’ve taken the tack of being comforting and understanding. Nothing gets me far, and to be honest I’m exhausted.

Then I heard some of the things Teacher Tom has to say over at ParentTV about dealing with preschoolers using ‘Informational Statements’. The penny dropped.

As opposed to commands which give only give the child two choices – to obey or disobey – informational statements are statements of fact. For example, instead of saying to your child “Pick up your toy and put it in your room!” the informational statement would be: “There is a toy on the floor that belongs in your room.”

The idea is to make a statement of fact about what you can see. “This creates the space for children to do their own thinking,” explains Teacher Tom, who has been a preschool teacher for 15 years.

You may need to repeat the statement a number of times to give time your child time to think and come to their own conclusions about what action needs to occur.

So what makes informational statements work with children?

Because, as Teacher Tom rightly points out, no one likes being bossed around. How true is that? I definitely don’t like it but for some reason I expect my children to obey my every command.

And my daughter definitely doesn’t like it and she lets me know by pushing back. Even if she intended to eat all her carrots, after I tell her she has to she will make a point of not doing, just to show me she doesn’t like to be bossed around.

According to Teacher Tom narrating and telling the story of what is going on around them using informational statements helps engage children in what is happening or what needs to happen. They have time to observe and think about what they can do in the situation.

By letting children be part of their own story they feel engaged and have more ownership over their actions.

To learn more about avoiding commands and using informational statements when talking to your child, check out Teacher Tom’s videos on ParentTV.