They do it because I tell them NOT to!
By Jeanette Kasper
We think in pictures. Not in words. Not in concepts, in pictures.
And, when someone like our parents, teachers or coaches give us
instructions, we picture what they are asking us to do.
Here's an example. Think about summer. What color is summer?
Can you imagine going out walking, seeing the bright sunlight
reflect off the green, green leaves of the trees? Do you see the
picture? We think in pictures.
Go one step further. "Don't think about skiing." I said,
"Don't think about skiing." What are you thinking
about? Skiing. Why? Because I said, "Don't"? That's what all
the parents say, They only do things because I tell them not to!
In the sentence "Don't think about skiing," what can you
make a picture of? Skiing. So you do. All the information we take in
goes directly to our safety brain (amygdala). The safety brain
thinks in pictures. We see skiing.
How long did it take for you to think, "Oh, she said
‘don't'?" It probably took a split second. The word "Don't" does not have a picture. It can't be processed by
the safety brain. So, it has to be sent over to the thinking brain (neocortex)
to be processed. The split second it took for you to think, "Oh,
she said ‘don't'," is the time it takes for the safety brain
to send something over to our thinking brain to be processed.
When we tell someone, "Don't do something," we are
criticizing them. We are implying that the way they did it is wrong.
I tell my kids, "Don't leave your shoes at the front door."
Where are their shoes every single time! My next comment is, "How
many times do I have to tell you not to leave shoes at the door?"
What picture do they get from that statement? Shoes at the front
door. That's what the safety brain sees. They hear the implied
criticism, "You did it wrong, again." That makes this
conversation unsafe. Slam goes that gateway in their brain, shutting
off all access to the thinking brain.
The word "Don't" can't get to the thinking brain to be
processed, because the safety brain has taken over. So, where does
the "Don't" go? It's gone. And the picture the kids have is, "Leave your shoes at the front door." And they are so good at
following instructions, they leave them there every single time!
How many times will I have to tell them? A million times or until
they leave home, whichever comes first! I've been giving them the
wrong picture with which to follow through. And the picture is all
Listen to yourself. How many times do you say "Don't" to
the kids? It leads to a tremendous amount of frustration. We keep
expecting them to change their behavior and cooperate more fully,
never realizing we are creating the problem in the way we give
Don't you dare turn on that TV until you've walked the
Don't bring home poor marks like this again!
Don't leave the bathroom messy.
Don't go to bed without brushing your teeth.
Don't hit your sister.
Don't come to class without your books.
Don't make such a mess.
Don't read all night.
Don't watch TV.
Don't stay out past 11:00 p.m.
Don't ask for more allowance.
Don't ask me to drive you.
Don't eat so fast.
Don't talk with your mouth full.
Take the "don't" off each one of these statements and I
hear parents around the world groan as they realize one word has
created big problems with their kids.
The easy solution is to talk in positives. Tell the kids what you
do want, not what you don't. We have been trained from birth to
focus on the negative. When is the first time you remember saying
"No" to your baby? Baby was probably three or four days old,
"There, there, don't cry!" We've practiced so often, that we
have perfected being negative!
It's always the right time to change. And every little bit of
progress is worthwhile. Tell them:
And when they ask you for something, you always want to be able
to say, "Yes." A child who comes into the kitchen, five minutes
before dinner, is told "No, you can't have a cookie. We're
eating in five minutes." And we're faced with a temper tantrum.
Instead, respond, "Yes you can have a cookie, right after
Answer "Yes" to every request. It's the picture that
follows that will be the challenge.
Yes, you can stop shovelling the walk, July 8.
Yes, I will buy you a car. With your inheritance, after I die.
Yes, you can stay up all night, when you're 23!
Delete "Don't" from your vocabulary, and watch how well
your kids start cooperating and responding to your requests.
Jeanette Kasper is a world leading expert on what causes people problems and
what it REALLY takes to get along with anyone, anywhere. And it's not as hard as
you think. After 20 years of research, Jeanette has information you've NEVER
heard before. Author of the Canadian best-seller "Anger is NOT an Emotion" and
"Calm the Kids and Keep Your Cool", Jeanette has discovered the 3 key mistakes
we make that create relationship problems and 3 very interesting and easy
solutions. Engaging, insightful and downright practical!