Monday, January 11, 2010

Positive Messaging for Prevention

How do you get kids to behave in a certain way while keeping them feeling good about themselves? It’s a tricky situation for parents and mentors. Always correcting a child’s behavior by telling them that they’re wrong may not be very helpful. A recent post to the Portland Public Schools’ Listserv reminded us of this excellent advice:

If the coach says "Don't miss," the kicker hears two negatives, "don't" and "miss." Thinking about avoiding the negatives, the kicker sees the goal posts or the edges of failure. Instead, suggests Jimmie, the coach should say, "Make the kick." Now the kicker looks right down the middle and the goal posts seem to get wider. Odds are now better the kicker will indeed make the kick to win the game….Parents to toddlers walking near puddles, instead of "Don't get your feet wet," how about "Keep your feet dry." Source

But research shows that youth are far less likely to drink alcohol if they believe their parents think it would be “very wrong.”

So how can parents get this message across in a positive way?

Maybe the solution is to put the primary emphasis on the things that ARE expected: do your best in school, protect your brain and your body, be kind and considerate of others, be truthful about what you’re doing and who you’re doing it with, go to parties where parents are present and no alcohol is available to youth, be home by curfew. Then, within that context, list some of the things that would interfere—such as drinking alcohol before age 21.

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