When Telling Your Kids No Doesn’t Work

Recently, we’ve run into this rebellious streak with our yellow lab puppy–she always seems to want what she can’t have; to do what she’s not supposed to do; and has selective hearing to boot. If I could just figure out how get her on the right track I’d be so excited, but I’m afraid with a puppy I’m going to have to settle for a little rebellion over the next 18 months–

Her monster behavior reminded me of a story I read once about a fishing lodge. The lodge was two stories and located on the edge of a beautiful lake. The manager was said to have put a sign on the second level that said, “Please do not fish from the balcony.” The fishing lodge continued to have problems with people doing exactly what the sign asked them not to do–fish from the second story balcony. Finally, out of exasperation, the manager removed the sign resigning himself to the fact that he managed a fishing lodge and people were simply going to want to fish. What he discovered amazed him. People no longer fished from the balcony once the sign was removed. What is it in our nature that wants to do what we’re told we cannot do? Is it a rebellious phase? I suppose if it’s a phase some of us have never out grown it.

When I taught preschool about 25 years ago one of the things I learned in one of my early childhood education classes was how to communicate with toddlers. One of the things I distinctly remember learning was we were to tell our students what to do instead of what not to do. For example, “Sit on the swing” rather than, “don’t stand up in the swing.” I think the person who came up with this idea must have known a little bit about rebelliousness. It worked amazingly well with my charges and I rarely had major problems in my classroom. (well, I did have one little girl named Brianna who love to kick her prosthetic leg across the room out of anger…but that is a story for another day.)

Once I had children, I used the same principles with them–telling them what to do rather than what not to do. It worked pretty well until they learned how to say the word, “Why?” The majority of the time I would explain why I wanted them to do something and that seemed to suffice until the teenage years. Then, we decided that helping them talk through decisions was the best avenue to take because if we told them what to do, that rebellious nature seemed to perk it’s grizzly head as they felt backed into a corner. Giving them choices allowed them the power to choose for themselves what to do while having our wisdom and guidance to help as they worked through their decisions.

Now, if we could just learn a method of discipline that would work for our puppy —

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