A Simple Trick for Gaining Cooperation

Posted by in No-Cry Discipline

Don’t think of a cow.
Don’t think of a tree.
Don’t think of a cow standing by a tree.
Don’t think of your breathing— breathing in and breathing out.

I’m willing to bet I’ve put a cow, a tree, and thoughts of breathing in your head!

kids and cooperation

We humans are complex – and the admonishment of ‘don’t’ often has little power. The mere mention puts something front and center in our brains. Multiply this effect tenfold if the human being is a child!

muddy children

Alex and Hassi

Telling Your Child What NOT to do

It’s so common for parents to tell their child what not to do – as a warning, a lesson, or a demand for cooperation. But describing (in detail!) what you don’t want your child to do can backfire.

The mere mention of an intriguing new idea gets a child thinking of doing it – even if you said don’t.

Hmmm, don’t put the marshmallow in the microwave?… I wonder what would happen if I put a marshmallow in the microwave. . .

Negative versus Positive

Instead of defining the action you don’t want your child to take, use the opposite approach. Make a very simple, but powerful, change in the way you communicate to your children. Instead of telling them what not to do, tell them what to do.

Consider the difference between these statements:

  1. Don’t push your sister.
  2. Don’t yell.
  3. Don’t run.
  4. Don’t forget your lunch.
  5. Don’t touch the TV controls.
  6. Don’t stand on your chair.
  7. Don’t chew with your mouth open.
  8. Don’t forget your manners.
  1. Be gentle with your sister.
  2. Use a quiet, inside voice.
  3. Walk!
  4. Remember your lunch.
  5. Here, you can play with this toy.
  6. Sit on your chair.
  7. Swallow before you talk.
  8. Remember to say thank you.

Elliott, 3 years and Matilda, 1 year

Elliott, 3 years and Matilda, 1 year

Changes You Can Make

I could make the following suggestion here: DON’T use negative instructions. But that doesn’t really tell you what you should use in their place, now, does it? Instead, if I were to be very clear and specific I’d increase the chances that you may follow this advice. So this is what I’ll say:

Use positive language to communicate your expectations. Tell your children specifically what you want them to do. Use proactive expression, as opposed to prohibitive expression, because that works so much better!

You’ll see: when you replace negative reprimands with positive instructions, you give children the information they need to behave appropriately. The decision to use that information is still theirs, of course, but they’re not left to guess at what your expectations are. You’ll also create a more pleasant mood in your home. And I guarantee that you’ll enjoy hearing your own voice so much more!

Mary Beth with Grandma

MaryBeth with Grandma

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Need more discipline tips? The No-Cry Discipline Solution provides gentle ways to Ways to encourage good behavior without whining, tantrums & tears.

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