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June 8, 2011

Semantics?

About a year ago, I read a post by reanbean about “positive discipline”, part of which is telling a child what they can / should do instead of what they can’t. Say, “Hands off,” instead of “Don’t touch,” for example.

At the time, our girls were about 16 months old, and I began to try to incorporate some of the principles that reanbean mentioned.

Hands off,” or “One finger,” [meaning you can touch something, but only with one finger] are biggies in our house.

Instead of telling the girls they can’t stand on the sofa, I tell them, “Sit on your bottom.”

Instead of telling the girls they can’t climb on the open door of their play kitchen (oddly, a frequent offense), I say, “Keep your feet on the floor.”

I try to reserve the word “no” for infractions that require immediate attention, if one of the girls is doing something that is dangerous, for example.

Yes, this may fall under “positive discipline”…or some people might dismiss it as semantics…but I think it can also be defined as being literal. Little ones don’t necessarily understand all the ways we can bend words, or the colloquialisms and idioms that color our language.

Saying, “Keep your feet on the floor” is pretty literal, and I don’t want to leave much room for interpretation in certain contexts.

Along a similar line, I had a funny exchange with Baby B a couple of days ago. “Can you help Mommy pick up these books?” I asked.

In the adult world, that of course is a nice way to ask someone to do something.

I had to laugh when Baby B replied, “No, I can’t.”

Ask a silly question, get a silly answer, Mom!

So, to my list of "semantics tricks", I’ve begun rephrasing such “requests” more directly, “B, please help Mommy pick up these books.”

This approach definitely requires some thought at times, but in a way it’s a fun challenge…it definitely makes me stop and think about what I’m saying and how I’m saying it.

14 comments:

Marcia (123 blog) said...

It may be semantics but I know I do try because I don't want to say "no" all the time. So exhausting.

I've not heard the one finger one before - what's that about?

I learned about "gentle hands" from Claudia's video and LOVED it. And the very next time there was an opportunity to use it, I now use it. It's usually, "gentle hands, Connor" as Kendra is already very tender :)

Carrie said...

This is so true. I often think that if I say something like "don't touch", they know in their minds that they shouldn't but they don't know what to do instead. So telling them feet on the floor or hands off is easier for them to understand because it gives them another option. It's all about options at this age!!

Quadmama said...

"One finger" worked wonders for us. There are certain things at my in-laws within reach of little ones, so when my girls were younger I always told them they could touch with one finger so they wouldn't pick the items up and break them. (Hey, if you're going to put fragile items where little ones can get them, then you should expect them to be touched). I've learned asking questions never works (when I ask them to clean up I hear "I'm too tired"), so I'll start with something simple such as "Let's clean up and start with the stuffed animals."

Anonymous said...

Funny, we use "one finger" too! Little ones just CAN'T resist if you say "don't touch" so I always felt like "one finger" was a great concession. :) --Marilyn

Beth said...

Semantics matter!! Probably the biggest lesson I learned with Will was how to word things. I would constantly 'ask' him if he wanted to do things. "Will, do you want to pick up your toys?" Well, of course he didn't want to and that's what he told me. Lots of things like that. Now I just 'tell' the kids what to do. "It's time to pick up the toys. Let's all pick up five things."

I've never tried 'one finger', but it sounds genius!

Trish said...

Okay, I don't know how I haven't found your blog before?? But I love the "one finger" approach, I'm definitely going to have to try it. Thus far I have been saying "gentle" which I'm not so sure they understand! So glad I read this post!

Andrea said...

Haha..I love it!! No, I can't! She is one smart cookie! I laughed out loud on that one!! Little smarty pants, indeed!

Barbara Manatee said...

I try to use the "expectation" over the "don'ts" both at school and home. :-)

I, too, have been found guilty of ASKING a student to do something...only to get them to respond with "no". I then restate my expectation, realizing I was the one who messed up! ha!

championm2000 said...

Oh, good reminders! I am notorious for asking hubby, "Do you want to...." and the answer is "Well, no, I don't want to..."

If his kids are anything like him, I am sure they'll say, "No, mommy, I don't want to pick up my toys/eat my veggies/take a nap...."

Olusola said...

I love the idea. Positive reinforcement has been proven to work even in adults so I can imagine kids will respond well to it

strongblonde said...

we say "gentle" a LOT!! one finger might be good, though b/c they LOVE to try to do exactly what we say :) b tends to add "okay?" to the end of his requests: "let's go to the kitchen to get ready for dinner, okay?" i feel like that just gives them time to say NO! :) i tend to phrase the requests nicely, but don't really form them in a question. :)

Julia said...

We do this! I had no idea there was a name for it. Positive discipline---I like it! I just think for them, it's a chance to praise good behavior, which works really, really well for us. Brynne gets so proud of herself when I say---remember the rule for being on the couch, and she remembers to sit on her bottom! :)

Now that I know there's an actual style of parenting for this---I can be more conscious about what I'm saying.

Love the "one finger" rule. I need to implement this! :)

I so appreciate your wisdom, Mandy!

Rebecca @ Unexplained X2 said...

Kind of sucks when they start to wise up, huh?

Matt will say, "No, I cannot do that."

I'm like, "Dammit, do it now!"

In my head...my crazy spinning head.

Love the "one finger."

reanbean said...

I still try to avoid over using no and stop as much as I can and , whenever possible, go with the "what you can/should do" approach instead. However, now that I've got some sassy little three-year-olds on my hands, it's not working as well as it used to. I'm now hearing a lot of, "No, I don't want to do." and "No, I do it this way." and even occasionally "Just be the boss of yourself, okay?" Gasp! Of course, those responses are not okay from my kids who are more or less aware of what it is that I really want them to do. So, unless the kid can recant that sassy comment pretty quickly, a time out usually follows. Ugh!