Why “don’t” doesn’t work!

Change the word “don’t”, and change your life!

It can be so exhausting being a parent, particularly when our kids continue to do the things we tell them not to do! But this isn’t happening “by accident”. In actual fact, when we tell our kids “don’t”, we are actually adding power to the behaviour we DON’T want, which is why it is hard for them to stop it.  We exhaust ourselves by continually saying “don’t”, until such time as we realise it’s still not working, and in an attempt to control the situation, we start throwing threats at them. But there is a more effective way to achieve the result, in a way that preserves  YOUR energy, and at the same time, empowers the child!

You see, the subconscious mind does not understand, and cannot process the word “don’t”. For example, if I said to you, “whatever you do, DON’T think of what colour your pillow case is”, immediately, your subconscious minds brings up a picture of your pillowcase. You then need to use your discipline to not mention the colour you seen in your mind. This is what happens in the minds of our children…

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Change “Don’t” to Stop, or please <insert wanted behaviour>

The subconscious mind thinks in PICTURES. Due to a lack of mental discipline in childhood, children almost always act immediately according to the picture they SEE on the inside of their mind.  YOUR words as a parent are what put those pictures in their mind! So instead of saying “Don’t yell”, say “Stop yelling” or “please use your quiet voice”. Instead of “Don’t hit”, say “stop hitting” or “please use your words not your hands”. Instead of saying “Don’t run”, say “stop running” or “please walk”.

This way, you are telling their subconscious mind what TO do, not what NOT to do. This is the instruction the subconscious responds to best and most automatically. They see the picture of what you WANT them to do, and behave accordingly. It is best and most effective to use the instruction of “please <behaviour you WANT>”, however when I was learning to change my language I found it much easier in the heat of the moment to use the word STOP. As I became better at it, I was able to change my language completely to asking them for the behaviour I wanted, rather than stopping the behaviour I didn’t want.

The quicker you can put a new picture in their mind, the faster they are likely to use it as their behaviour. So if you say ‘stop’, just know that it will temporarily freeze the picture in their mind, but if you don’t replace the picture for them by redirecting it to a picture of behaviour you want them to use, they are likely to revert back to the previous picture, and therefore the previous behaviour.

Regarding the subconscious mind, you can’t delete a thought or a picture, you can only replace it! So if you find it easier, use ‘stop’, quickly followed by the new behaviour you’re seeking. Eg. As a reaction when I was first learning I would find it easy to say “Stop yelling!!”. This would get their attention, and they would look up to me with a “what do I do next” look on their faces, and I would then say “please use your inside voices”. All of a sudden we had a happy, balanced house hold!

Related article: 5 most important words to change in your vocabulary

Image source: freedigitalphotos.net

About the Author

I'm mother of 3 girls. I have been in business since the age of 19. I have definitely discovered my life's purpose, and I aim to inspire you to discover yours! "In a world where you can be anything, be YOURSELF"