How often we tell our kids “Don’t do that!” , “Don’t hurt your sister!”, “Don’t come into our bed!”, “Don’t leave your veggies!”. But do you know, it takes more effort for a child to compute what they are supposed to do instead because in order to understand what they mustn’t do, they have to work out what exactly it is. Hence, “don’t think about pink elephants!”. How will you know how not to do this if you can’t imagine a pink elephant? So you now need to imagine what one might look like and get a picture in your mind. You have already done what I’ve asked you not to do. And so it is with children.
I once had a client come and see me, really tired and tearful. Her child was actually about 6 years old – so not a toddler by any means. She was perfectly able to sleep on her own in her own pretty bedroom but instead, every night, her mom said “Don’t come into my room!” and guess what? Every night without fail, at some point in the night her daughter snuggled in under the duvet and started moving about and waking mom.
I asked mom, “what do you want to happen?” and she said “I don’t want her to come into my room!” so I asked again. “No, what do you want?” and she looked a bit cross with me and repeated louder “I don’t want her to come into my room!”.
I asked again. “I want to know what you DO want”. There was a pause. “I suppose I want her to stay in her room” she said tentatively.
It was clear that she had only ever thought about what she didn’t want and focused her mind on that alone.
Guess what?! I got a lovely email the next day saying that her daughter had stayed in her room. Why? Because it’s much easier to focus on the positive and tell your child what you want. This they understand and can deliver on. Make it easy for them by telling them what you want.
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