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Avoiding The "Dead Man" Commands

A long, long time ago, when my daughter was tiny, a co-worker told me that she had learned in a parenting class that the kinds of commands she was giving her children weren't appropriate. She was always telling them to "don't" do this and "don't" do that. Her instructor said these are "dead man" commands--they are commands that you can give a dead man and have him obey.

Well, okay, the image is kind of gruesome, but the phrase is memorable. The idea is that you want to tell your children to actively do something, not to not do something. So, for example, instead of saying, "Don't hit the cat," you would say, "Please pet the cat gently." Instead of saying, "Don't yell," you would say, "Please speak quietly." Instead of saying, "Don't hit your brother," you would say, "Please treat your brother nicely." Instead of saying, "Don't be rude," you would say, "Please be polite." And so on.

Of course, if there is an urgent need to stop something, you can always say, "Stop fighting" or whatever is needed at the time to get your children's attention, and then move on from there.

I never attended that parenting seminar, but I benefitted from my co-worker's sharing of what she learned. As my daughter grew, I made it a habit to give her "living person" requests, instead of "dead man" commands. And now I thought I might share this with you, in case you can benefit from this too, if you haven't already been doing this.

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