Wednesday, August 03, 2005

"Please" and "thank you" are NOT the magic words.

One must be very specific when giving directions to a child like ~K~. Care should be used when uttering the magic words that often have a special effect on the actions of some children. No, not "please" and "thank you."

The magic words are "DO NOT."

Words such as "Do Not" are supernatural in that they are either ignored or not heard at all. Subsequently ALL words following "DO NOT" are interpreted as suggested and approved activities. Magically, your child/ren will do the exact opposite of what you want.

In the therapeutic scientific community, positively rephrasing your request is part of a method referred to Positive Discipline: "Tell them what you want. Children respond better to being told what to do rather than what not to do".

In an article entitled Make Lemons into Lemonade: Use Positives for Disciplining Children, they suggest the following: "If you find yourself using words like 'don't...,' 'stop...,' and 'no' to discipline your child, try using positive words instead."

***It has also been shown that we are less likely to forget if we say "Remember to ...." instead of "Don't forget....". Try it yourself next time. Say, "Remember your umbrella/lunch/to stop at the post office" instead of saying "Don't forget...." See if that doesn't improve your memory's performance.

When ~K~ was in kindergarten, I quickly learned not to say "Do not cut up anything with your scissors" as that was heard as "CUT UP ANYTHING WITH YOUR SCISSORS." Instead, I told her "Use your scissors only to cut what the teacher tells you to cut."

I could not say "Do not poke or tap your friends with your pencil" as all ~K~ heard was "POKE OR TAP YOUR FRIENDS WITH YOUR PENCIL." Instead, I had to say "Use your pencil only to write on approved surfaces."

I also could not tell her things such as "Do not aggravate me right now". You can see where this would lead, right?

So, I worked hard to train myself to phrase the commands positively without using the "Magic Words." And while I am usually successful in changing a negative statement to a positive one, sometimes in my haste or a fit of pique, I actually utter those "Magic Words."

Yes, I know.

This morning I was very upset to find that while cleaning her room the other day, ~K~ hid put in her bed, all the items that had been on the floor. This would explain the strange noises of things falling during the night. And to my dismay, she had spread out even more stuff across her previously clean floor.

This afternoon ~K~ was told to clean her room. Again. And until all items in her bed and on the floor were properly put away, she would not be allowed to watch tv, play video games or listen to her stereo.

But I was upset and forgot myself. I used the magic words.

I said, "Until your bed is clean and everything is properly put away, Do not turn on your tv, Do not play video games and Do not listen to your stereo. Do you understand what I have said?"

"Yes." she replied.

Uh huh. Where was MY brain?

So, no, I was not surprised to have this conversation as I checked on her progress. An hour after she started "cleaning".

~K~: Mom?
Me: Yes?
~K~: I'm doing my exercises to get ready to clean my room!
Me: Oh really?
~K~: Yes, they are finger and hand excercises.
Me: Good. Anything to help you clean up.
~K~: {pause} Some people might call them playing video games.

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