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next time, do this

on the floor 1. King

What’s the most common word we use in parenting? 


“Don’t hit your brother.  Don’t leave your stuff on the floor.  Don’t spill it.  Don’t talk to me that way. . . ” 

Sound familiar?  How’s that workin’ for you?

For me, the “don’t” pattern doesn’t work so well.  Let me demonstrate why.  Right now, do not look at the adorable picture at the top of this page.   Don’t imagine snuggling with that warm fuzzy puppy and smelling his sweet puppy breath. 

What are you doing?  I said don’t do it!    I’m willing to bet you’re taking a sneak peek at that picture.  I put it right there in front of you.  I even tempted you by telling you all about it. 

When we say to our children, “Don’t run,”  we are planting a picture of the opposite thing we want them to do.  We often reinforce it with lectures and more details about that undesireable behavior.  So what does a child automatically start thinking about?  Running, of course!  We haven’t even mentioned what we want to see.

The simple antidote?  Next time.  

“Next time, please walk.  Next time, use your words.  Next time, pick up your coat and put it on the hooks.  Next time, hold it carefully.  Next time, speak to me in a respectful tone. . . “

“Next time. . . “ plants a positive picture of the behavior we want.  It channels our efforts and energy in the right direction.  The phrase teaches, rather than criticizes.  I’d rather be a teacher. 

Will it guarantee they’ll do it for you next time?   Perhaps not.  Still , I like myself better when I say “next time.”  It gives me a moment to choose who I want to be.  

Switching from “don’t” to “next time. . .” works for me.  What works for you? 

Visit Uncommon Parenting for more great parenting tips from Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller.  Also, check out Rocks in My Dryer for other Works for Me ideas.

Creative Commons License photo credit: ElBosco

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12 comments to next time, do this

  • Next time — I like that! This works for adults too. What a wonderful way to train a new employee, or to ask for better treatment from a spouse or friend. “Next time, I wish you would ….”

    Cindy L’s last blog post..It’s a brand new day!

  • I love these posts. They make perfect sense and are such good reminders to me. Thank you!

    Heather of the EO’s last blog post..

  • Mo

    What great behavior modification; I’m betting it works both ways (for you AND whomever you are requesting something from “next time”…)

    Thanks for sharing this!

  • sigh… I feel like I say “don’t do that” every other sentence some days… you know? I think this is a good alternative and I’m going to make an effort to implement it. Thanks for sharing.

    wani’s last blog post..Free Pancakes @ IHOP!!

  • WOw…..That hits home for me. I’m not normally a big meany mom…but I have found myself saying Don’t a lot lately.
    Thanks for a great alternative positive way of saying what I need to say.
    You rock!

    Wanda’s last blog post..When Life Gives You Lemons…

  • Amy

    Great post! I don’t do this nearly enough with the kids (or my husband!).

    Amy’s last blog post..WFMW: Crafty gift ideas

  • I was just going to say — no kids here, but I hope this works with husbands!

    Kristin’s last blog post..WFMW – Newspaper clipping

  • pam

    I’m so glad you all found this useful. Yes, Kristin, Amy and Cindy, it’s a great way to rephrase things for spouses, coworkers and other adult colleagues. The older I get, the more I believe the concept that “everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten. . .”

  • Satchel Pooch

    This is a powerful technique. You can even use it in the present: for example, “Walk in the halls please!” works much better at school than “No running!” I like how it reinforces the wanted instead of the unwanted behavior, and it seems somewhat less likely to evoke a hostile response.

  • As a still non-mommy type, I am right there with everyone who sees this fabulous “next time” practice working on the big kids in my life. I think it seems like a wonderful way to keep up a more nurturing inner dialog too. How often do we rule ourselves with the line of a tough disciplinarian rather than a loving mother who offer unconditional support?

    Epiphany Girl’s last blog post..“I stand here today humbled by the task before us”

  • Haha! I thought you put the picture of the puppy there because they actually use this principle in dog training. (Not “next time”…but stating the positive behavior command rather than the negative.)

    The same is true in the acting world. A good director will tell the actor what TO DO, not what not to do. (My husband is a film director).

    I’m a believer. Will work on adding that lovely phrase, “Next time…”

  • [...] We need a frequent reminder that kids are resilient, that our mistakes are forgiven and that next time, we will respond better. We need a friend who pulls us out of that ocean of diapers and tantrums [...]

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