Monday, April 17, 2006

How best to talk to kids

I was talking with a friend yesterday who has a kid about Kenny's age (2). We were talking about all the advice you get nowadays on how to speak to your children. One particular piece of advice is that you should phrase everything positively. For instance, if they're running where they shouldn't be, say "Put your walking shoes on!" instead of "No running!". The idea is that if you say, "No running!", then they'll focus on the "running" part, and tune out the "no".

Later, when I thought about it again, I thought - what a bunch of baloney. Saying "No running!" is a much clearer and more direct way of saying what you want. The word "no" is one of the first words that children learn - they're not going to miss it, except deliberately.

It's this kind of advice that makes me skeptical of a lot of parenting books. Particularly the "kinder and gentler" ones that advocate more discussion, more understanding, more catering to children. My favorite child-rearing book is 1-2-3 Magic, by Thomas W. Phelan. Great book, very down to earth, and full of great ideas on how to make life with kids happier.


Blogger Unknown said...

I have admit, I did not read any parenting books but I did notice that kids yell NO a lot when they are going through the terrible two's. I decided remove the word "NO" from my vocabulary when my daughter was little. It seems a bit awkward at first but then it became second nature. For example, I would say something like "It is not a toy", instead of no. To my amazement we never experienced the terrible two's. We all had to be on the same page. My wife and I plus the nanny. Also there is some truth to the example you stated about no running. As a ski instructor, we focus on what we want to see rather than what we do not. Very effective in in teaching skiing at least.

10:06 AM  

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