Here's Why You Don’t Want to Say Don’t to Children
by Susie E. Caron ©2/1/15
Parents often get frustrated or even angry when children don’t listen and don't stop doing something at the parents’ request.
Have you said something like, “Don’t do that”? Or, perhaps you've told your children “Stop doing that!” The truth is that most young children, as well as older children, don’t respond easily to the words “Don’t”, or “Stop”. There are lots of interesting reasons for this, but they are too numerous to describe in this article. Instead, I will give you a better way to get your children to respond more often. All you have to do is change a few words.
Below are two scenarios. The first example will likely be very familiar to you. The second illustrates the change you will want to make.
4 year old Sally is jumping on your new couch, because she found it to be nice and bouncy. You don’t want her to do this for several reasons such as:
1. it’s new.
2. you don’t want her to jump on anyone else's couch.
3. she could fall and hurt herself.
As a result, you immediately say, “Sally, don’t jump on the couch.”
Sally is not hard of hearing, unusually defiant, or ignoring you, but she clearly doesn't stop. So you find yourself, raising your voice, getting agitated and even angry as you continue to tell her, (louder and louder) “Stop jumping on the couch! Don’t jump on our new couch! I told you get off the couch!”
This is clearly not getting you the results you want because
1. Sally is not listening, obeying, etc.
2. She is getting to practice defying you.
3. She is in danger of hurting herself, or the couch.
There is an easier way. As I mentioned above, "all you have to do is change a few words" to gain the desired result. Instead of telling your young child what you don’t want her to do, tell her exactly the behavior you do want. Below is an example of this.
4 year old Sally is jumping on your new bouncy couch. You immediately move into her direct view, 6 feet away, and while waving your hands excitedly, you say “Oh, Sally, Feet on the floor! Quick put your feet on the floor!”
To your delight and to ‘Sally’s’ surprise she jumps off the couch and finds herself suddenly on the floor. Now you can tell her your reason for the request. (I recommend you say something like, “Thank you Sally, I want you to be safe. Keeping your feet on the floor is safe.) If she grins and climbs aboard the couch again, you grin and repeat your command, “Feet belong on the floor.” And calmly and gently help her down. Then tell her “Good job, Thank you,” and distract her immediately with something that will be fun for her to do. For example, you could offer to play "Hide & Seek" or suggest you want to see how fast she can run and "time her running" from point to point outdoors. A fifteen minute span having fun with you will help remove the desire to go back to using up her energy by jumping on the couch.
This is just one example of how a simple change in your words can alter the outcome. No matter what situation you face, when you choose words that tell your children exactly what you want them to do, they will listen to you much better, and obey you more often. You will find yourself enjoying your children more and they will be happier too.
Thank you for reading. Remember to social share this by clicking on the links on the left. I'd also love to hear from you. Leave a comment below and tell me how this article helped you.
Twee' Means You & Me
Susie E. Caron
Susie E. Caron MA,
Author, Blogger, Podcaster,
Christian, Wife, & Mother, helps build parent-child relationships, 1 blog, book & podcast at a time.
Welcome! I recently retired from combined careers in teaching, psychotherapy, and parent coaching to spend more time writing.
When I'm not busy creating books or articles, you might find me looking for dark chocolate or riding my beautiful horse Apple in the woods and fields of Vermont.
These articles are for educational and self-help purposes only and are not intended as psychotherapy.
If you experience unusual symptoms or discomfort please see your medical or mental health practitioner.
No patent liability is assumed for use of the information contained. The author disclaims any responsibility for loss or risk for use or application of this material.
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Blog Reviews & Thank You!
July 13 at 7:17pm ·
Just wanted to say that I love your posts about the different ways to connect/relate/understand your child. It has given me a new approach towards understanding my daughter and allowing HER to tell me how she feels instead of me suggesting to her how she should feel. Thanks Susie!