Monday, January 25, 2010

The Power of No

Several years ago, Jordan came home from smart kid camp to share what she had learned in her psychology class. The idea was that the human brain does not comprehend the word "no" or "not" in a sentence.

So for example, if I say, "Do not climb on that chair", what the brain hears is "Do climb on that chair." I have looked for the research to substantiate these claims and I've only found a little bit of information; mostly to do with sentence structure and understanding of what is being said. But I still believe it!

In knowing this idea, I can see how it works.

Several years ago, we had borrowed a turtle shell camping thing that goes on the top of your car. It was secured atop our Expedition, therefore made the thing REALLY tall. I had to go to work before we had a chance to take it off. The ENTIRE way to work, I kept telling myself, "Do not park in the garage. Do not park in the garage. Do not park in the garage." I had no reason to even think that I would park in the garage. I had never parked in the garage before. NEVER.

But what did I do?

Yep. Like I had parked there every day of my life, I pulled right into the garage. The exact thing I had been trying to avoid. Luckily, my senses returned to me just before I peeled our Expedition like a can of tuna on the roof of the parking garage.

But why? Why would I do something so out of character for me?

Because I mentally told myself to.
I told myself. "Park in the garage. Park in the garage. Park in the garage."

I have tried to change the way I speak to my kids using this idea. Instead of telling them "not" to do something. I try to always remember to tell the kids exactly what I DO want them to do. I made the mistake of telling Jameson today, "Don't forget your folder." Guess what she did? Just what I told her... she forget her folder.

In my every day life, I'm trying to tell myself what I AM going to do. For example: "I am going to have a good day"...instead of "I hope I don't have a bad day." I have no idea if this is sound or not, just something I was thinking about today.


Nichole said...

This is very very very true. We studied it in college. The human brain does not truely understand negation for quite some time. When you say 'don't jump in that puddle' even if the child can repeat the whole sentence to you, their brain only processes 'jump in that puddle'. Instead you should say 'walk around the puddle' and not even leave that place where you'd expect negation open. This is true with kids well into the school age years, but especially true for younger kids (and strong willed toddlers). It applies into adulthood, but adults have trained themselves to listen for negation and apply it properly. Anyone who makes a conscious effort with kids to not say 'don't do xyz' and instead 'will you abc' will see a big change. I tested the theory when I was in college and worked in a daycare when this came up in my classes - it worked. It's the same idea that positive reinforcement works better with kids than negative reinforcement. I'll stop babbling now, just wanted you to kow I'm a HUGE believer in this.

♥~Gina~♥ said...

I like this conclusion. I think I will try this technique at home. I never even considered changing the way I say something, but it makes perfect sense. Typically I'm saying, "No, don't do that.", so on and so forth and they never hear me. So, yes. I think this is an excellent idea. Thank you. :)

Julia said...

I'm a believer as well. When I'm calm and rational I can do it---which means I haven't been able to do it for oh...about 4.5 months!