Beyond DOs and DON’Ts

by Scott Noelle

(continued from WordWatch: “Don’t...”)

If “don’t” statements don’t work, what does work?

Of course, it helps to get clear about what you DO want and focus on that. So instead of “Please don’t staple the dog,” you might say, “Let’s play fetch with Spot,” or “Let’s staple some paper chains.”

Also, ask yourself if there’s really a problem. For example, instead of saying “Don’t make a mess,” you could just decide that messes are okay — a normal part of life, especially with children. :)

When intervention is clearly appropriate (e.g., the dog-stapling scenario), shifting to positive words is not enough, because children pay more attention to emotions than words. So a good rule of thumb is...

Open your heart before you open your mouth!

With practice, you can get so skilled at centering, emanating good vibes, and conveying positive expectations, that it won’t matter what you say... even if what you say includes the word “don’t”!

Originally published on 2007-05-25
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