Don’t think of a monkey! Don’t think of a monkey! Don’t think of a monkey!
What is on your mind? Let me guess, a monkey.
The minds of children work the same way as ours. When we use the words “don’t” or can’t” our children tend to skip them and typically just hear the rest of the sentence. Some examples of this quirk of the mind:
You can’t have desert before dinner.
Typical result: Child obsessively thinks about desert, and often continues to ask.
Don’t hit your brother!
Typical result: It doesn't take long before the hitting continues.
You quickly see the pattern here. There are some things you can do to work with the mind of your child and not hit a brick wall with your perfectly reasonable (to you!) directives. You can offer alternatives:
You can have one fruit before dinner.Or:
We are having desert after dinner.
Touch your brother gently.Or:
You can hit the pillows if you like.
I am sure you can think of many options that would work well for your family. Have fun playing with language and notice any different results you get. This is not a magic solution for children’s behavior, but does make a difference. Please share anything you notice when you practice this!