Don't, No, Stop, Quit - Words and Phrases Not to Use with Teenagers

Apr 21, 2020

When addressing your teenager’s behavior (or any child’s behavior for that matter), try to avoid using the following words, “DON’T, NO, STOP, QUIT”.  You may be asking...WHAT???!!!!  Let me explain so that this makes a little more sense.  When addressing your teenager’s behavior, you likely want to extinguish negative behaviors, but you should also want to promote that they engage more in positive behaviors.  When you start your conversation with the above four words…you are automatically putting your attention on the negative behavior you want less while not attending to the positive behavior you want more of.  It seems like a minor difference, but you will get more of what you put your focus and emphasis on.  If you are looking to increase positive behaviors, placing more focus on them will increase the chance that you will see more of them.

For example, instead of saying, “Stop playing games on your computer or phone so that you can get your homework done”, try saying, “I would like for you to get going on your homework now so that it is done before dinner and then you can enjoy the rest of your night to relax”. 

Another example is, instead of saying, “Don’t yell at me”, try saying, “If you speak to me in at a regular volume I will be happy to listen to you and will be better able to hear you and understand what you are trying to tell me”. 

This can look easy when reading through it like this but it can be a challenge in the moment.  I have conducted numerous trainings with parents and with youth workers on this and then moments later what would come flying out of my mouth when redirecting a teen behavior???  You guessed it – I would say “Don’t do that”!  It is often our natural, instinctual response to use one of these 4 words when we don’t like something, so it takes some practice.


If you are intentional about not using these four words consistently, it can make a big difference.  When teenagers only hear “Don’t do that”, “Stop it”, and “No” they tend to tune us out and view us as being nags.  When we focus on what we want more of, we are not bringing increased attention to the negative behavior and will likely get a more cooperative response. 

One final example to think about:  Your teenager has not been consistent in getting home on time for their curfew and then this weekend, they ask you to stay out later than normal.  In this case, your teen may say, “Can I stay out past curfew this weekend so that I can go to a dance?”.  What you want to say is probably “NO!!!  Are you crazy”?  But instead, try saying something like, “Well, I would like to have you come home a few weekends in a row on time before we can talk about extending your curfew so if you come home on time the next 3 weekends then we can look at this again”.  You are still not allowing them to do it but you are spending time talking about what you want to see them do more of, rather than the behavior you don’t like. 

Try to think about this and when you feel the words “Don’t”, “No”, “Stop” and “Quit” ready to come out of your mouth, pause, think and say what you want to say without using these particular words.  Put your focus on the positive thing you want more of and notice changes that will likely occur if you begin to do this consistently. 

Continue to watch for new blog posts with tips and strategies to support you in parenting your teenager and also join my How To Parent A Teen Facebook community.  I am here to support you ongoing to stay in touch!

If you are a busy woman looking for additional support for yourself, check out www.KarenVincentSolutions for support, inspiration and tips to help busy women live their best lives.

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