Life with children is challenging. Period. Throw in work obligations, play dates, a significant other, your own social life, school work, your child(ren)’s social life, house cleaning, and all of the other jobs that exist throughout the day, and it is easy to become overwhelmed. As the day progresses, the kids ask for more and more as your level of exhaustion increases and your patience fades.  

This is when parents tend to slip into what I call “Don’t Doom.”

“Don’t throw that!” “Don’t eat that!” “Don’t hit your sister!” “Don’t whine at me!” “Don’t jump on the couch!” “Don’t splash the water out of the tub!” “Don’t feed your dinner to the dog!” “Don’t leave your shoes there!”

Sound familiar?

How do your children respond to this? Does your child often tell you or your significant other what NOT to do? Do they imitate this way of directing when they play with their friends or interact with siblings? Does their adamant “Don’t do…..” surprise you at times?

So what do we do?

We reframe our thoughts and our words. Instead of telling our children what NOT to do, let’s tell them what TO do. Let’s try to get rid of the “Don’t” and fill it with the direction of what you need for them to do.

“Instead of throwing that, can you place it in your toy chest?” “We play with playdough like this and we eat our food like this!” “Your sister smiles when you use gentle hands – try it!”  “I don’t understand what you are asking. Can you please use your speaking voice?” “I see you want to jump – you can jump on the trampoline!” “Splash the water like this!” “Dogs like treats like this one – why don’t you feed this to Daisy?” “Please put your shoes in your bedroom so I don’t trip over them and hurt myself.”

It is such a great thing to model for your children how to state what you need using specific instructions and kind words. Your children will be more apt to follow through because they are being given direction by someone who is approachable if they need to ask for additional direction. This helps them build their own communication skills so they can also make requests or redirect others clearly and kindly in their daily lives.

Just know - reframing is hard. It will take practice. And you will sometimes struggle to take the “Don’t” out of your vocabulary – especially at the end of a very long day. Some days it will seem super easy and other days will be more challenging.  Give yourself credit for each time you consciously remove the “Don’t” from your vocabulary. The effort will pay off in the long run!