Monday, January 14, 2013

Day 6: Mouth Trouble, Revisited

On Day 5, we talked about Mouth Trouble and I introduced the FIRST of two good options for teaching children to use respectful words. (Click HERE to read Day 5 or Click HERE to catch up on the entire series.)

So, let's just jump right into today's tip, a second very effective way to "combat" MOUTH TROUBLES (back-talk, whining, fussing, tattling, complaining, etc).


My husband has worked as a business sales rep for years. One of the things they use to train people to be successful salespeople also works as an AMAZING child-training tool---Role-play! Who knew??!!

Role-play is acting out the behavior you are striving for at a non-confrontational time.

It is, quite literally, training for obedience.

Role-play is planned, non-disciplinary, and FUN! :)

I'll give you a couple of scenarios that apply to today's topic (Mouth Trouble), and then I will give some example of ways that role-playing can work with a variety ages and situations.

---Teaching Respectful Words to Toddlers Through Role-Play (whenever they are talking clearly, usually about 18 to 24 months is a good time to start)

---If your little one already obeys you verbally most of the time, you will not need to use treats for this scenario. If, however, you are feeling that they do NOT listen most of the time, you may need to use the treats as an added incentive. :)---

Pick  time of day when your toddler is not hungry or tired. Be happy, playful, and non-confrontational. "Johnny, let's practice obeying! Would you like a treat? (I use Jelly Beans or something small like raisins.) You would? Say 'Yes, Ma'am!'" Put the treat in your hand an hold it out to your little one. Smile big. :) The little one responds with "Yes, Ma'am" and you say, "GOOD JOB, sweetheart! You used nice words!" and hand them the treat. Then you can say, "Let's practice using our manners now. Would you like another treat? Can you say, 'May I have a treat please, Mommy?'" Toddler uses his manners and you hand them another treat. "I love it when you use your manners. Those are such NICE words." Tickle baby, smile, play a little. Then say something like, "Can you tell Mommy the "no-no" words?" Prompt them to say whatever words you do not care for them to say. (This will vary by age, but might include "NO!", "I don't want to!", "Mine!", etc.) Exaggerate the "no-no" words with them and act out a scenario in which they might use them. Then say, "Are those NICE words? No! Those are "no-no" words! Now, can you help Mommy think of your NICE words?" and prompt again. ("please", "thank you", "may I have a turn, please?", "yes, you may have a turn", etc.) Praise the little one for the use of their "manners" or "nice words" and then send them off to play. This whole training session shouldn't take more than about 3 minutes.

The next time they use one of the "no-no" words you just practiced, you follow the steps for a RE-DO, prompting them to choose to use a NICE word instead.

---Teaching Older Children Respectful Words Through Role-Play (about 4 and up)

This kind of training is more than just "talking", it's actually role-playing with acting! It's a natural, fun environment for children to learn in, and they really love it if you have a positive attitude. :)

For example, we wanted to teach our children to say, "Thank you for dinner, Mommy. May I be excused, please?" after each meal (and before they get up from the table). This is a GREAT kind of skill to learn through repetition and role-play! I would teach something like this by calling all of the children together and saying, "Okay, guys, let's practice our table manners. Everybody run to the table as fast as you can---GO!" They all start laughing and running, even the little ones. Once they're sitting down, I teach the importance of being thankful at meals, and using respect when we are asking to be excused, etc. Then I would say, "Let's practice using our manners and asking to be excused. Everybody pretend to eat their dinner now!" They overexaggerate chewing and swallowing and we're all having fun. Then I choose someone to ask to be excused. "Nathaniel, you go first. Thank Mommy for lunch and ask politely to be excused." Everyone watches him use his manners, and then we clap for him and he sits back down. One by one, I ask each child to "use their manners" and even the little ones LOVE to have a turn. This is a non-disciplinary, pleasant learning environment in which repetition is the key.

When Brent comes home from work, I call everyone back together to "show Daddy what you worked on today!" and he offers more praise and enthusiasm.

I would continue practicing this "new" skill until all of the children (age-appropiately) follow through without reminders. If we get lazy and stop doing it, I play the "obey game" again for a few days until they are doing it without being prompted.

Role-playing, keeping our expectations very clear, and frequent reminders (like a Re-do) go a long way in teaching our children appropiate and respectful communication skills.

ROLE-PLAY can be used frequently to practice any behavior skill you're working on, not just for respectful words. We have used it when teaching our children to:

--Take turns
--Resolove conflicts appropiately
--Come or Stop when called
--Sit quietly
--Clean up messes
--Say, "Yes, Ma'am" or "Yes, Sir"
--Offer (or accept) an apology to/from a brother offended
--Sit quietly at restaurants
--Not touch at grocery stores
--Calmly accept consequences to wrong behavior
--Treat siblings kindly
--Look at adults and shake their hand when offered

(Now, they don't have all of these things mastered perfectly, but we are consistently working on them and seeing continual growth, which is all I expect. :))

We also role-play before any social situation (church, dinner out, guests over, etc) as a quick reminder of what we expect....Brent and I will exaggerate rude or wrong behaviors, remind them to obey, and specify the consequence if they choose not to obey.

In review, ROLE-PLAY is a fun, hands-on way to repetitively teach appropiate behaviors to your children.

In essence, it is Proactive Training vs. Reactive Discipline.

Teach more. Discipline less. :)

Blessings, dear ones, on your parenting journey!


  1. "In essence, it is Proactive Training vs. Reactive Discipline. Teach more. Discipline less." I LOVE this! Wish i had you around when Duncan was little. I was so young, i had no idea what i was doing and i feel as though i've failed him in all that I didn't know about raising children.

  2. Debbie Pearl gives that same approach "teach more, discipline less". The older a child gets the less discipline they should have to have because their training has reached their heart and they do it out of love for their Lord, not because they fear the punishment they may get! I wish I had known what I know now with Audrey when she was little...thankfully the Lord gives grace and can make good things come out of our lack of knowledge when He knows our heart is trying to do the right thing! He continually points us in the right direction if we ask. I am convinced though that if a child seems to be consistently rebellious in many things, it is the fault of the parent. Too much emphasis is put on discipline and not training. Discipline without proper training will produce a rebellious child. Oh, they may eventually give in for the sake of getting out of more discipline, but their heart will not give evidence of true repentance. Thank you for sharing this important aspect of childrearing! It CAN be fun! We, as the parents, have to determine that we're going to have discipline ourselves to make it fun and do it right! :-)

    Really, I do hope you write a book!!!....;-)


I welcome any and all comments as long as they are Christ-honoring. Please let me know what you think!