Don’t don’t, do do
We all get frustrated on telling our kids not to do something the first thing they do (or continue to do) is to go and do it!
Storytelling is a great way of helping you with this particular challenge. This particular post is about one aspect of creating a story: The use of language.
Not just any old language, but specifically positive language.
It turns out this is because in order not to do something, our brains have to process the idea of doing it before not doing it.
Don’t scratch your nose in a minute
I bet you thought about scratching your nose. Or if you haven’t you may realise you’ve done it in a minute after you’ve stopped thinking about not doing it.
As adults, we’re (mostly – and I think we all know at least one adult who will always do the opposite of what they’re told to do) able to process that very swiftly and get on with the job of not doing it.
Children on the other hand, aren’t so lucky. Their natural desire to learn and explore (which should totally be encouraged btw) simply filters out the “do not” bit and they quite obediently go and explore whatever it is you’ve asked them not to.
There is a simple trick to getting this right:
Don’t say “don’t do abc”. Do say “do do xyz” instead
Instead of telling them “Don’t climb on the furniture” try saying “Let’s stay on the floor”
Instead of “Don’t run into the road” try “Wait for me at the curb”
Instead of “Don’t throw stones” try “can you find any red ones?”
You saw how complicated it is to explain how this works, so just imagine all the extra processing that a brain needs in order to not do something and why children find it so easy to (apparently) misbehave…
Build this positive language into the stories that you tell your children and you’ll be able to deliver very strong lessons and achieve fantastic results from surprisingly short stores.