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Parenting Tool: How To Motivate Kids Without Yelling!

Parenting Tool
I have a little parenting tool I’d love to share.

Actually, it’s super little because it’s one of these:

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Yes, I’m talking about one of those teeny tiny pointy “greater than signs” – which represents when something is greater or less than something else.

I now use that little “greater than sign” with my son (Ari Salmansohn) – to motivate him to be his best self. Here’s how this “greater than sign” technique works.

Let’s say we’re all having dinner.  Suddenly, my son decides he wants to play on his ipad rather than enjoy conversation with our family. Well, that’s when I pull out my “greater than sign.” I say to him: “Which is more important – technology or people?”

My son’s answer is always the same (even if it’s sometimes through a whiny voice): “People!” And then he puts down the ipad and joins back into family conversation.

Basically, the “greater than sign” forces my son to become highly aware of his core values and priorities.

In the example above the greater than sign helped to persuade my son to prioritize the joy of eye to eye contact over the joy of ipad.

people > technology

Parenting Tool
I have many occasions when I use the power of the “greater than sign”  to motivate my son to better behavior- and many methods for using it. Sometimes I will draw a little “greater than sign” on a piece of paper – or form the “greater than sign” with my index finger and thumb – so as to get my son to truly focus on this concept of something being “greater than” something else. However, sometimes I will simply ask the question “which is more important?” – then I let my son do the math in his head.

Here are just a few quickie examples of how I use this “greater than sign”:

I might ask my son which is more important: playing with the dog all morning or eating a healthy breakfast so you have energy for the day?

I might ask him which is more important: changing your shirt five times or being on time for school?

I might ask him which is more important: the temporary pain of water in your eyes or washing your hair so it’s clean and smells awesome?

I might ask him which is more important: watching tv all night or getting a good night’s sleep so you wake up refreshed?

I might ask him which is more important: doing silly video games or learning how to read really good, interesting books?

Basically, whenever I’m in conflict with my son, I pull out the “greater than sign” – and force him to take time to think about his priorities.

Parenting Tool
The “greater than sign” not only helps to solve the specific problem we’re having in that particular moment, it also empowers my son to develop an inner awareness of what his core values are – for his longterm future.

Basically, the “greater than sign” motivates my son to regularly tap into his core values whenever he needs to make a decision – which then thereby teaches him to become a wiser decision maker – without me around – for the rest of his life.

Oh – and I have one quickie warning about using the “greater than sign.” It’s so effective, don’t be surprised if your kids sometimes use “the greater than sign” back at you.

Recently I was working at home on my computer late at night. My son wanted me to stop and play with him. Next thing I knew, my son pulled out that “greater than sign” and flashed it in my face.

“Mom,” he said, “Which is more important – your computer or people?”

I chuckled then gave him a big hug. “People,” I said. “Absolutely, definitely, completely people.” Then I closed my computer and I played with my son for the rest of the evening.

Yes, I love that little pointy triangular symbol. It sure knows how to get its teeny tiny points across.

Want to live longer – and younger? Me too! I’m a late in life in mom. I promised my son I’d live to 100! He asked me to live to 200 -but I bargained him down to 100. He accepted my counter offer. I then went on a quest to learn everything I could about longevity – and turn it into a book – called LIFE IS LONG – from Random House. Learn more here!


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Karen Salmansohn (Founder)

Hi I’m Karen Salmansohn, founder of NotSalmon. My mission is to offer you easy-to-understand insights and tools to empower you to bloom into your happiest, highest potential self. I use playful analogies, feisty humor, and stylish graphics to distill big ideas – going as far back as ancient wisdom from Aristotle, Buddhism and Darwin to the latest research studies from Cognitive Therapy, Neuro Linquistic Programming, Neuroscience, Positive Psychology, Quantum Physics, Nutritional Studies – and then some.

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