The Daily Groove

WordWatch: "Don't..."

At my youngest daughter's sixth birthday party, I engaged a gaggle of giggling girls in a chasing game by standing in their midst and shouting, "Please DON'T chase me!"

Of course they began chasing me immediately! :) Aside from my obvious playfulness, there are two reasons they completely ignored the word "don't."

First, the word "chase" conjured an image of chasing in their minds, and once they saw chasing, it was "monkey see, monkey do." (There's no image of "don't.")

Second, they knew I wouldn't have said "don't chase me" unless I expected them to chase me. And children are wired to meet the expectations of their elders.

Today, notice whenever you say "don't" to your child...

  • "Don't wake the baby."
  • "Don't make a mess."
  • "Don't hit your brother."
  • "Don't eat too much of that."
  • "Don't stay out too late."

What are your "don't" statements causing your child to focus on (and thus attract)? What expectations are you conveying?

Continue to Beyond DOs and DON'Ts...

Comments (closed)

We love the "don't" game!

This is so true! I was glad to see this post because it is something we have been playing around with a lot at our house recently. I've been experimenting with using don'ts in a silly way to attract behavior you DO want. I have tried to reserve saying "don't" mostly for playtime and silly time as a great way to turn a chore into a game or just for the sake of fun. With my silliest voice I tell my toddler "don't wake the baby (meaning himself as he pretends to rest) then ooops I woke the baby!" or "that bite of food is toooo big, don't you eat it!, oooopsie you ate it all up" or "don't chase the dog, oh oh you are chasing the dog!" He giggles and loves it and repeats the whole scene over and over. I was worried that I was ruining the power of "don't" for important situations but I've found that the few times I do say "Don't" and mean it, he takes it very very seriously. On the other hand, I find that saying the positive action to do in those safety situations like "stop" works better than "don't go past the sidewalk" Anyone else have experiences playing around with these words?
Seattle / Mama to Alexander, born July 2006

Re: WordWatch: "Don't..."

This DailyGroove came at a great time for us...our daughter is 14 months and testing EVERYTHING. It's amazing to see. I found instant success with removing the "Don't..." and replacing it with a "Let's..." Such a good reminder that language can shape your interactions positively. Thanks for this great tool!
Seattle/mama to Tilia