One Word

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One Word

Avoid lecturing and nagging. Use one word as a kind reminder.

  1. For the towel left on the floor: “Towel”
  2. When the dog has not been fed: “Dog”
  3. For the dishes in the sink: “Dishes”
  4. When it is time for the bedtime routine: “Bedtime”

When agreements are made together in advance, one word is often all that needs to be said.

Parenting Tool in Action from San Diego, CA

From the Positive Discipline Parenting Tools Book

One morning my oldest son, Greyson, who was almost 7 at the time, said to me, “I can’t wait until I’m grown up so I can boss my kids around.”

I was amused, surprised, and hurt at the same time. Amused because he thought that being older means being the “boss.” Surprised because we were having a cuddle moment on the rocking chair and I was sharing with him that I didn’t want him to grow up. And hurt because I didn’t like that he perceived me that way.

I asked him, “What does being a boss sound like?” He said, “Go clean your room . . . now!”

Ugh! I knew that wasn’t how I speak to him all the time, but I also knew I was guilty of it some of the time. I asked him, “What if we came up with an agreement where all I said was one word?” He said, “I’d like that!” I said, “I know that you are aware of all the chores and expectations we have of you as a member of this family.” He sighed, “But sometimes I do need reminding.”

We agreed that I could skip the lectures, and one word would be enough. Later that morning he left his bowl on the counter, I said, “Greyson, bowl.” He said, “Mom that was two words.”

I smiled, gave him a big hug, laughed, and said, “Okay, maybe it will be two words if your name is going to count.”

This tool continued to work throughout the day with one word reminders such as “hands", “teeth", “shoes", and “hug".

What would I do without these Positive Discipline Tools?

Mary Tamborski, Certified Positive Discipline Trainer

Teacher Tool in Action from Eureka, Illinois

From the Positive Discipline Tools for Teachers Book

Often we teachers use lots of words and then wonder why kids tune us out. A typical example in my first-grade classroom was at recess. I noticed my tendency to talk on and on about the weather, what kids would need to wear, and what they needed to do to show me they were ready. It was another time to lecture kids when all they wanted was to go outside and play.

I decided to try out the Positive Discipline tool "One Word". As the time approached for recess, I looked at our schedule, looked at the clock, and said, “Recess". It was funny and gratifying to see the kids look at one another and at me, and then begin to get ready. I got my coat and headed for the doorway of our classroom. Calmly the kids lined up behind me. With one look over my shoulder I could see they were ready, and even quieter than usual—they were probably in shock—and off we went.

It was another energy saver for me, and I noticed that the students were very cooperative and seemed to appreciate fewer words. I believe my actions showed respect for their capability to know how to get ready for recess.

When talking so much, I didn’t show faith in them (another Positive Discipline tool). When I talk less, they have the space to access their inner capability and figure things out for themselves.

Dina Emser, former director of Blooming Grove Academy, Certified Positive Discipline Lead Trainer


  1. One word is often all that is needed for a friendly reminder.
  2. One word to avoid is “Don’t.”

    Instead try:
    • “Pencils” as a reminder for students to get out a pencil for note- taking
    • “Eyes” when students need to visually attend for learning
    • “Books” to signal students to be ready with their book out
    • “Clean-up” before leaving the classroom
    • “Solutions” when kids are arguing or fighting
  3. Combine nonverbal signals with the One Word tool for multi-sensory instructions.

Online Learning

Positive Discipline offers online learning options for parents, teachers, and parent educators. Learn in the comfort of your own home and at your own pace. You have unlimited access to our online streaming programs, so you can watch and re-watch the videos as often as you like.