Why Don’t Won’t Work
How often do you hear a parent telling their child “don’t touch” or “don’t do that”?
Does it work? Sometimes, but most times they keep on doing it. Why is that?
When you say “don’t” followed by a command the brain hears the command and thinks of the action you stated. They are looking for the action you want them to engage in. They can’t “do” a “don’t” . The command is everything after the “don’t”. So when you say, “Don’t jump on the bed”, the command they hear is, “Jump on the bed.”
For example, if I say to you, “Don’t think of a white elephant” the first thing you probably thought of was a white elephant. If I say, “Don’t look over there” you look and say, “Where?”.
There is a universal law that says what you focus on expands, in your life.
When you say, “Don’t touch”, what are you focusing on, what you want or what you don’t want?
So, what do you want your child to do when you say, “Don’t touch”? My guess is you want them to keep their hands off of whatever it is they are touching.
Focus on the actions you want and use words that help to accomplish that action.
In my experience, with my kids, it is much easier to simply let them know what it is I want them to do. If I want them to not jump on the bed I say, “The bed is for sleeping upon. The trampoline or the floor is for jumping. Please stay off the bed.”
Instead of, “Don’t touch!” say, “Keep your hands to yourself!”
Instead of, “Don’t look down!” say, “Look up or look ahead”
Instead of, “Don’t hit!” say, “Be gentle!”
You get the Idea.
Family Practice: Take a look at your life and begin to notice what you say to your kids. Write down when you tell them DON’T the most. What are the top five things you tell your kids not to do?
Now, write down what it is you really want them to do.
Practice this and you will see a big difference in your communication with your kids.