Monday, February 14, 2011

Why do I have to ask my child 3+ times to stop doing something?

When you say to your child “Stop slamming that door” or “Don’t slam the door” the first (and sometimes only) thing they hear is the word SLAM. Most likely your child was not really intentionally trying to slam the door, but now you have brought it into his mind. The word DON”T or STOP may not have really registered with his memory. So in effect, by telling him to stop slamming the door, you have now made him aware of an action he has made, but not really told him what he should do.

If I were to say to you, “Stop thinking about eating chocolate”. Even as an adult this might pose a problem for you. Chances are you were not really thinking about chocolate beforehand and now that I have brought it up, you are. So in order to stop yourself from thinking about chocolate, you have to concentrate on chocolate and now you can’t get chocolate out of your mind.

Now if I were to say to you, “think about eating a sandwich”. Would chocolate ever enter your mind? Not likely. In the same way, telling your child not to do something is only going to make him think about what he isn’t supposed to do. You are asking him to make the leap from what he isn’t supposed to do to what he is supposed to do. If you have a child that is 10 or over, this might be very easy for them. But ask yourself this, why didn’t YOU just tell him what he SHOULD do.

It is easier in the busyness of life to react to what we see our child doing and verbalize it asking them to stop. It is hard to train our mind to think about what he should do and verbalize that instead. If it is that hard for us, think about how hard it is for him. It seems a little unfair of us to ask our child to make that connection when we are not able or willing to take the time to do it ourselves.

When you talk to your child, tell him WHAT to do instead of what NOT to do. “Don’t slam the door” becomes – “Close the door gently.” “Don’t walk across the carpet with dirty shoes” becomes “Take your shoes off before you walk on the carpet.” And adding a please to the statement isn’t a bad idea either.

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