Do you remember a television show called Kids Say the Darndest Things? It aired from 1998 to 2000. Well, I propose that often times parents say the darndest things. I used to say them myself until I learned to improve my communication skills. Good parenting starts with awareness and then choosing better.
Here we will explore some of the ridiculous lines famously said by parents to their children. Of course, we will add some improvement alternatives.
Don’t Put Peas Up Your Nose!
Let’s start with “Don’t poke peas up your nose!” It sounds ridiculous to be making such a statement to young children. Perhaps they never thought of the idea. Actually, it might be fun for them. “Yea! Stick peas up my nose. That sounds cool!”
Haven’t we all seen a fun guy pretending to be a walrus with drinking straws up his nose? Maybe there are parents screaming, “Don’t shove straws up your nose!”
Certainly the line “Don’t poke peas up your nose!” plants an idea to do so. Actually, it creates a green nostriled image. It stimulates a picture in our minds.
The same happens with the phrase and directive, “Don’t think of a pink elephant.” Say that phrase a couple times:
- “Don’t think of a pink elephant,”
- “Don’t think of a pink elephant,”
Can you obey that demand and directive? Let me tell you to do it again, “Don’t think of a pink elephant!”
How did you do?
As human beings, we tend to think and imagine in pictures. The word don’t does not stimulate the brain to see an image of action. “Poke peas up your nose” does! Any number of phrases beginning with don’t such as “Don’t think of a pink elephant” trigger an image in the mind and can stimulate action to match it.
Parents often unwittingly use picture and action words such as the following.
15 Classic Poor Parental Communication Phrases beginning with Don’t
- Don’t touch.
- Don’t shout.
- Don’t fight.
- Don’t hit.
- Don’t talk with your mouth full.
- Don’t swear.
- Don’t argue with me.
- Don’t leave your shoes by the door.
- Don’t pick on your brother.
- Don’t spit.
- Don’t hit your sister.
- Don’t hit each other.
- Don’t make me wait.
- Don’t act like a baby.
- Don’t be so silly.
5 Reasons to Minimize Don’t
1. One of the finest gifts parents can give their children is clear, honest and whenever possible, encouraging and loving communication.
2. The media hype over the movie, The Secret, has people talking about the idea that what you focus your thoughts on you will attract. Teachers of the “law of attraction” include Jack Canfield (author of Chicken Soup for the Soul series), Denis Waitley and Dr. Michael Beckwith. In essence, it means if you take charge of your thoughts, you’ll take charge of your circumstances. However, our children’s circumstances are primarily created by us. Children’s success is better supported when parents wisely choose the picture words they speak.
3. Children value their parents’ loving attention. If they can not get it they will seek their parents’ frustrated attention. If your attention is focused on the behavior you do not want you risk getting just that; inappropriate behavior. I have actually heard children say, “But that’s the only way to get Mom (and/or Dad to notice me.”
4. A positive directive is easier to follow than a negative. “Don’t drive North.” is totally confusing while “Drive West” is clear.
5. Telling children, actually, anyone, what you want creates more positivity and success than sharing what you do not want.
7 Tips to Transform Don’ts into Positive Action Phrasing
1. Catch yourself when you say “Don’t.” Even, record it.
2. Decide what you want your child to do.
3. State it clearly.
4. Be prepared to take some kind of action if your child refuses.
5. Be willing to negotiate differences with older children.
6. As often as possible catch your child doing what is appropriate, helpful and cooperative. Make as much or more of a BIG DEAL as when your child is behaving inappropriately.
7. Remember, what you focus on expands.
7 Transformed Parental Communication Phrases
Get started with this list of suggested and positive statements. Replace the don’t statement with a clear direction.
- Don’t touch. “I want you to keep your hands by your side.”
- Don’t shout. “Remember to use your inside voice.”
- Don’t fight. “Please use your words to say what you want.”
- Don’t be late. “I’d like you home by 10 pm.”
- Don’t swear. “Please speak respectfully to me.”
- Don’t make me wait. “I am leaving in 10 minutes.”
- Don’t argue with me. “I’d like you to talk calmly about what you want.”
Bonus: Don’t put peas up your nose. “Eat your peas!”
All the best in creating family cooperation, healthy conflict resolution, and harmony by using positively directed words. Your efforts just might result is hear some say, “She has some good parenting strategies, especially her positive communication”.
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Note: If you want to learn more about transforming your parent talk please take a look at my book Gag Your Nagging: Ways to Communicate More Effectively.