We do everything in our power to make sure our kids are safe, don’t we?
Our infants don’t sleep on their tummies, we fit the babies in their car seats, and we make sure our houses are “baby proof.”
As our children grow older, we teach them how to cross the street, how to ride a bike (with a helmet – safety first!), and to be wary of strangers.
But sometimes we end up coddling instead of teaching. We end up being the master of the word “Don’t” instead of “Do!”
There’s no doubt when kids are little they need our assistance, but as they grow older, they need to learn boundaries and that there are consequences for their actions.
A friend of mine once gave me some priceless advice. She said, “I say yes as much as I can, so when I say no, they know I mean it.”
Though she was talking about play dates and cell phones and saying yes to friends, introspectively I began to apply this to other things as well. I tried to apply her wisdom to things that happened around the house.
Instead of “don’t touch that!” I’d try to say, “Is that a good choice?” or Love and Logic’s favorite, “uh oh.” Sometimes it was successful, sometimes it wasn’t.
(Hint: Screaming, “Don’t touch that!” when your little angel has your favorite crystal vase already in his greasy little hands is not a good idea. It ends up in a million pieces anyway. At least from experience it did.)
But I noticed a change in me too. I slowly became more patient and more positive. It worked for quite a while, but one day I noticed I was getting away from it. “Don’t” showed up more often in my vocabulary, and with it a negative change in my children’s behavior. They became more combative with me. They listened less and seemed to take great pleasure in doing the opposite of what I had just asked.
I recommitted myself to finding that positive energy again.
Recently, my husband shared some information he read in a golf book. He said that the human brain responds immediately to “don’t.” If you’re a golfer, you’ll understand this next example.
Teeing up, the golfer notices there is water on the right. He says, “Don’t put it in the water.” And where does that ball end up? Exactly. Plop! Right in the water. My husband explained that our brains focus on the negative. So in the golfer example, it’s best to tell yourself what you DO want to do, not what you don’t.
WOW! Where was that research when my kids were all little? It explains why when I said “Don’t,” they went and did exactly what I just asked them not to do.
So my friend’s advice still stands firm. Be positive as much as you can, so when you have to say no, it means something.
I believe it applies to the crystal vase just as much as it does to a heart. If it’s precious, be quiet, be resourceful, and be positive.