Advice For Parents: Choosing Your Words Carefully

      A lot of children have selective hearing; have you noticed?  Some of this selective hearing is planned and some isn’t.  They really don’t hear us correctly sometimes.  We can do something to make sure this doesn’t happen as often. 

      Have you ever said don’t run down the hall, and the first thing your child does is run down the hall?  My mom used to say to me, “Don’t talk back to me.”  The first thing I did after this instruction was talk back to her.  Strange. 

      It is never a good idea to start an instruction with the word don’t, because whatever you say after don’t might be the part of the instruction that they think they have to follow.  Here is a classic example.

      I saw a grandmother tell a little boy, “Here is the dirty diaper.  It needs to go out.  Don’t put that diaper in the middle of the garage this time.” 

      About a half an hour later the grandmother opens the garage door and says, “Why is the dirty diaper in the middle of the garage?” 

       The grandson responds with, “You told me to put it in the middle of the garage.  I tried to find the exact middle.  Did I do okay?” 

       Amazing!  He really only remembered the last part of the instruction.  The grandmother should have said, “I need you to take this dirty diaper and put it in the garbage can in the garage.” 

       Likewise, we should say, “Talk softly”  instead of, “Don’t yell.”  We should say, “Walk down the hall,”  and “Speak respectful to me.” 

       It is so much easier for our children to understand how to follow instructions if we tell them what to do instead of what not to do.  Whenever I start thinking of the things I don’t want my children doing, I ask myself how I can phrase my thought as a straight forward instruction instead of a don’t instruction. 

       Try this today, and see what happens.  When I first altered my language I was pleasantly surprised at how much better my children followed my instructions.  We understood each other better, and this made everyone happier.

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8 thoughts on “Advice For Parents: Choosing Your Words Carefully

  1. My wife and I follow a similar rule of thumb with our kids. Does this work on teenagers though? (I’ve got just under a decade to figure them out).

  2. Doug D, teenagers never do what you say no matter what you ask them to do, so you need to start thinking about reverse psychology. 🙂

    Nicholeen, this is excellent advice. Thanks for this.

  3. So true. Just today I told Jie Jie to put her (dirty) favorite pair of jean in the dirty hamper and NOT in the washer were I had a load of clorox and whites going. She nodded at me. I asked her to tell me what I had told her to do. No lie, she says, “Put them in the washer”. That is all she heard.

  4. Nicholeen I was so excited to see you posting! I can’t wait to hear you in your class at the Holistic LDS Living COnference in June. Your classes look awesome!

  5. Hey Cool! I’ve see that Holistic Living conference and have been wondering whether or not to check it out. Does anyone else know much about it? Website for it? I’d probably come just to see Nicholeen, but would love to see who else may be there. Any info would be sweet!

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