I read an article a few years back, that i loved and was a game-changer for me… that i wish i had saved but unfortunately did not. I say it was a game-changer for me… NOT because i have become an expert at this, or are really very good at it at all… but because it shed light on something i DO NOT do well but i really want to work on. I’ll do my best to explain what i remember and how i try to put it into practice as a mom:
Human nature… kinda crazy. I’d say for most people, when we’re told NOT to do something, well… we want to do it. When we’re told NOT to go somewhere, well… we want to go! Am i right? That’s why, in my opinion, diets don’t work! In the past, as soon as i decided i need to go on a diet, guess what happened? ALL i could think about was Olive Garden’s all-you-can-eat fettuccine alfredo, a warm brownie, and a starbucks iced caramel machiatto. Ok, there you have it… my biggest weaknesses! But really, i hadn’t thought about those foods, until the day i started my diet.
How about this. [give another example]
You get it, right? Its human nature. When we’re told not to do something, we naturally want to do it. Not only that, we PICTURE in our minds, what was said. Don’t have a brownie. I literally picture a soft brownie in my head. Don’t ??????
Now take these same concepts into parenting little kids. We tend to continue to tell our kids what NOT to do. I do it all the time and its actually what most naturally comes out when i parent. Even if we give direction nicely and calmly… “Sally, please don’t jump off the couch” “Bobby, please don’t throw food on the ground” “Jane, don’t get out of bed” You name it…we do it all the time. Now that you’re aware of it, you’ll start to hear yourself. But what happens when we do that? Well… Sally WANTS to jump off the couch. And Bobby WANTS to throw food on the ground. And Jane WANTS to get out of bed. Not only that, guess what they just pictured in their heads? The words you said, that’s what. They actually pictured jumping off the couch, throwing food on the ground, getting out of bed. Why? Because we all do that! I bet YOU did too when you read those sentences!! We are actually making it so much harder for our kids to obey! As i just explained above, when we’re told NOT to do something, our human nature naturally just WANTS to. And that’s normal. And we picture the words that are said. And that’s normal too. Its normal for us, as adults. And its normal for our kids. They’re not necessarily TRYING to disobey (though let’s be honest, sometimes they ARE)… but most of the time, we’re actually making it tougher for them to OBEY.
Just a couple nights ago my youngest (3 yrs old) walked into the kitchen and just opened up the cupboard and announced she was getting a snack. My first reaction was to say ‘Kinley, don’t go in there!’ or ‘You can’t have a snack’ But i actually stopped myself, quickly reverted it in my head and said ‘Kinley, ask Mommy before you open the door.’ (or could have been ‘Kinley we need to eat lunch first’) Its such a slight change. But its in the positive tense. If i had said, ‘don’t go in there’….guess what? Now she REALLY wants to! Lol. And now she’s also picturing walking into the cupboard in her mind. But instead…..’ask Mommy before you open the door’ causes her to picture the act of asking me and there’s not a restriction put on her that she instinctively wants to rebel to. [good example or not really???].
If this makes sense and you really want to give it a go… you’ll start to become very aware of these slight changes. But the result is big… the atmosphere is more positive and you’ve given your kiddos a positive image in their minds and a much more nature-friendly way to obey… lol
“Don’t leave all your stuff in the car” ———> “Make sure you take all your stuff inside” Honestly… even as i typed that out. The first phrase made me picture a messy vehicle with school bags, etc all left inside. The second phrase i picture their back packs hanging on the hooks in our back entrance. I’m telling you, kids do the same thing in their minds!
“Don’t get down from the table until you finish your dinner” ———> “Make sure you finish your dinner before you get down from the table”
“Don’t leave all your toys out” ———> “Put your toys back in the bin when you’re done playing”
“Don’t hit” ———> “Touch gentle”
“Don’t grab a toy from someone else” ———> “Ask for the toy if you want it”
“Don’t talk to me like that!” ———> “Talk kindly and respectfully”
I could go on and on. As parents, these examples happen every day, all day! It’s such a slight, easy change in our verbiage. But let’s be honest, though the verbiage change is easy, actually DOING IT is another. Its just a habit that needs to be re-formed… it takes time, patience, and you’ll fail at it a lot. BUT now that you’re aware of it, and if you WANT to change, you’ll start to notice all the times you phrase things in the negative form… and it would be very easy to switch it to the positive form, mean the same thing, and make a world of difference both for you AND for your child(ren).
I hope that helps and gives you something to think about! I’d love to hear different phrases that you actually switched around and spoke in the positive tense and if/how your kiddos have responded… please share!!
This is just a small piece of parenting and what i choose to focus on. Stay tuned for more ‘deep thoughts’