Emily was putting pink frosting on the newly baked cake. Sitting up at the kitchen counter, she had a table knife in her hand with a large glob of that frosting on it. Her eyes were twinkling and that glob of frosting was getting really close to her mouth. So guess what Dad yelled!!!
“Don’t put the knife in your mouth!”
Guess what Emily did.
It was such a natural, impulsive response. And that frosting tasted so good! It was almost like she was doing exactly what Dad told her NOT to do. The natural reaction of the adult is to think the child is purposely disobeying. But it might not be exactly like that.
Think about it this way
When Emily was admiring that pink frosting. . ..what was she paying attention to? The frosting? Was she paying attention to Dad when he started to talk? I don’t think so.So by the time Emily realized that Dad was talking and shifted her attention to him, what did she hear?
Maybe the end of the sentence? I am not sure, but it is a possibility.
And here is another question
How would Emily have responded if Dad told her, “Put the knife down.”
Telling her what TO do may produce a very different result than telling her what NOT to do.
So there are really two issues here. . .
Get the child’s attention before communicating to her
A lot of communication to children occurs when they are doing something else. If they are paying attention to whatever they are doing, they may not shift their attention to the speaker.
Tell the child what TO do
After getting the child’s attention, helping him understand what he is supposed TO do will generally yield a better response. When the message is communicated in a clear straight forward way, there is less thinking that needs to be done to figure out what action to take. And what are some options?
Get the child’s attention before communicating
Say the child’s name
Use a gesture
Move so you get into her visual field
Show him an object or other visual cue to get him to look at you
Help children know what TO do
Use a prompt.
Hand him a tissue instead of saying “Don’t wipe your nose on your sleeve.”
Use a gesture.
Gestures can guide her to appropriate behavior. Point to the coat hook instead of “Don’t drop your coat on the floor.”
Model what you want
Offer “Let’s do it together.” That can encourage children to do things with more enthusiasm than you might get otherwise.
Call attention to the “problem”
Say “Oh, oh” “Oops!” “Look!” Then point to what needs to be done.
Look right at his face and clearly state what you want the child to do.
And what’s the bottom line?
We have our patterns. . .our standard ways of saying and doing things.
We can become so focused on trying to change our children that we don’t really think about our part in the interactions. Sometimes making small changes in what WE do can make huge changes in how our children respond. Little things can make a big difference. It is worth thinking about.
P.S. Sometimes people are so adamant about only saying positive things to children that they claim you should never use the word NO.
I don’t agree.
The world is full of caution and rules. Teaching students to understand what NO means is important for their safety and for effectively participating in the community. But if we communicate NO and DON’T all the time for everyday activities, those words lose their
Many thanks to Jenifer Covington for sharing with us!