When you were a kid, did you ever play the game, “HOT and COLD?” I am not sure what you called it, but you play by hiding a prize and your friend has to look for it based on your direction. As your friend gets closer, you say, “getting HOTTER!” and when walking away from it you say, “getting COLDER.” The final steps right before your friend gets to the prize usually results in, “HOT, HOT, HOT, FLAAAAMMMING HOT!” Or maybe your friend is way off and you say, “ICE COLD, FREEEEEZING COLD.” Fun game. I remember it well.

Now, picture playing that game if all you were able to say was “cold.” You cannot say, “hot” or any version of warming…just, “cold.”

That would be a pretty frustrating and boring game. Only being told when you are not in the general vicinity of the prize would be a pretty short-lived game.

The person searching would probably quit and move onto something with which he could be a bit more successful (think about this…).

How many times do we find ourselves as parents interacting with our kids as if we are playing this game, expecting them to “find the prize” when all we are telling them is what not to do, where not to go, and how not to say that? I fear we do this a bit too much, not offering or teaching our kids the directions we want them to go.

I thought of this the other day as I was explaining this same idea to a group of teachers. I must have looked ridiculous doing it, but as I explained it, I acted as if I was a kid walking. After each demand to “don’t go there,” I changed directions. “Don’t go there…nope not there either, don’t go there…” Each time changing directions. If you do this, you can actually feel the frustration of not knowing where to go, but knowing eight different ways NOT to go. You will quit. You will not want to walk any further.

Try as much as you can to give your kids as much direction of where to go before they start going. Give them a model of the behavior, give examples, give them things to say, practice with them. Once they have an idea of what to do, where to go, and how to go about doing it, not only will they be more likely to be successful, but you will also be more able to shape their attempts in the right direction by reminding them again on how to do it correctly.

Remember, with each “NO,” give them the direction of the “YES.”

Check out these posts that might help show you the way:

Parenting lessons from a T-Ball coach

Walking in circles

Lighthouse or Laser?