Why Words Don't Work

Nov 02, 2020

Last week I talked about changing kid's actions by letting go of what they're DOING and focusing on what they're THINKING. When we create situations that inspire their reflection, behavior changes on its own. If "same thoughts = same actions," it stands to reason that when kids shift to new thoughts, they also shift to new actions.

It may be hard to believe that focusing on thoughts is all that's needed to change behavior, but you are probably already applying this principle in your parenting right now. When you explain to your child that it's dangerous to run into the street, or help them think about a friend when selecting a present for their birthday party...you are banking on the hope that when your child thinks about things in the 'right' way, they will make the 'right' choices. Even when we are yelling and screaming at our kids, the underlying hope is that our words will get through to this kid and make them shape up!

 If this sounds familiar, your intentions are spot-on, but your methodology is unlikely to work. Unfortunately, words don't change behavior very well because they keep kids thinking about the wrong thing: US! They're not thinking about what they'll do differently next time, or how a bad decision didn't work out well for them. Depending on how we are talking to our kids, they are either thinking about how scary and mean we are, or about how much attention and energy they're getting from us. Needless to say, this is NOT the epiphany we were hoping for!

Put simply, words don't teach, experiences do. Experiential learning is the most profound and lasting kind of learning a person can have, especially a child. When a kid has an experience as a result of a choice they've made (without distracting drama or engagement from us), that's when the 'right' thinking takes place. Their attention is now on the things they really need to be thinking about (i.e. their choices and actions).

How do we create those experiences? Natural consequences! (Come on, you knew I was going to say that, right?). Why are natural consequences the slam dunk of parenting?

  1. They create an experience for our kids while taking us out of the equation as much as possible. Neutrality is key here, which means we don't have to be angry, shaming, disappointed or upset to influence our kids.

  2. They give a safe, low-stakes experience instead of a dire outcome. For example, instead of gum disease as the consequence for never brushing your teeth, we can set a rule that treats are for kids who brush - much safer!

  3. They build resilience, empowerment and self esteem in our kids. Kids see that they have the ability to determine their outcome, and that we believe they can make smart choices all on their own.

  4. We get to experience calm, peace and a happy outcome immediately, even if it takes our child a long time to learn to make better choices. (I can enforce a boundary that I spend time with kids who are quiet and calm, even if it takes my child weeks to learn to CHOOSE to be quiet and calm).

If you're ready to learn how to create these learning experiences for your child and totally transform the behavior in your family, I'm ready for you! Book a free Discovery Call now so I can hear all about whatever is hard for you right now and give you a roadmap for creating change immediately. I can't wait to get started!