Young Learners & Pragmatic language for parents

Number #1 Son started school this week. Having just turned four, he’s at a theoretical disadvantage, due to is brain being anything up to 364 days worth less developed than the ‘average’ child, whatever the hell that is.

I mention this, because anyone with children *must* read Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. It among many enlightening things, discusses the handicap that children have in being born ‘early’ in their academic year. I found this crushingly depressing, and vowed, like one of the parents in the book, to actively socially cultivate their younglings, encouraging mature decision making, discourse and reasoning  from as early as possible. This happens in the book when a mother is talking through an upcoming visit the child is making to the doctor.

Parents: Buy it, read it, assimilate it and implement it post haste.

Back to my own lad, he’s naturally gifted with good intelligence, reasonable confidence and as Robert Cialdini will tell you in Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion is tall and handsome, so will be well liked at least.

Now to the meat of this post (who says gustatorial linguistics isn’t used outside France)….

During the week I’ve overheard a few things that parents have said which *may* have had an affect on the experience of their children. And it”s a common NLP tenet, stating your language, in the affirmative.

That is, as Richard Bandler says: “say it the way you want it” because “you can’t do a don’t” – your nervous system must first perceive of the thing first, before crossing it out with a big red X

Let me explain; Incident one was us parents and children walking out of the playground @ the end of the school day. A Dad was holding the hand of his boy, estimated to be around five or six years of age. The boy tripped over his own shoe, flailing his body and free arm, pratfall style but was caught, thankfully, by the strong grip of Dad on the lad’s hand. So far so good right? Well then, clearly in a state of confusion and mild shock (and arguably without at that point in his young life, an automatically rehearsed response) had the following said to him by Dad

“That didn’t hurt, that didn’t hurt”.
The boy then instantly burst into tears at the mental direction suggested by his dad. It’s important to note at this point that the Dad clearly had the best intention by saying this.

Incident two was this morning. Mum waiting at the gates with her 2 gorgeous little children, two brothers, again around five and six years of age. Young boy had fallen and, although he had attempted to brace his fall with his hands, his mouth made contact with the ground first. Ouch. The kid was balling his wee eyes out, poor thing.

It was then that the Mum informed us all

“It always happens when I warn him”

So stop warning him already! Now, I don’t know for sure if it was like I think, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was akin to

“If you don’t get down you’ll fall!” or “You’re going to hurt yourself!”

Well, with commands like that from the person who’s effectively ‘God’ in their lives, is it any wonder that it doesn’t happen?

‘OK Wise-Ass, so what *should* they have said, that might have lead to different outcomes… ?’

In short, I don’t and can’t know for sure, but here’s what I would have said to my own younglings…

Incident one –  when this has happened while the lad is holding my had, in the past I’ve said at that *crucial* point of confusion, where the brain, while not primed is reaching out for anything to latch onto..

“STAND UP!” in an extremely direct command tone. Why? Well, I want to out-shock, and scramble the response to the existing stimulus (the near fall), so that my ‘bark’ takes precedence in his experience (that’s one way how Rapid Hypnotic Inductions work by the way – I’m doing some tonight, so I mention it!). Once this is done, I’ll check him visually and hands-on to discover any damage, if none then I’ll confirm that he’s OK, and then praise the shit out him for being brave, noting how strong he was. This works for me, it may or may not be appropriate for others.

Incident two – Well again, simply barking “Get Down Now!” in my most uber-commanding tonality works *most* of the time. Keeping it simple, not overcomplicating the instruction, but most of all drenching the crap out of the voice with pure intention and command. If it wasn’t quite so dangerous, or earlier on in the incident I might get  in awe/excited about something I’m holding/found/am looking at in order to again, trump the desire to clamber with the desire to find out this Ben 10 ‘alien egg’ I’m holding…

Sneaky, underhanded and downright pragmatic.. just like every parent should be… right?!

Just to finish off, a couple of NLP Legends wrote a stunning book with (among stunningly documented NLP techniques) a great chapter on ‘Parenting Positively’ talking about a useful way to communicate with children, both to praise them, and to depotentiate anything they did that was ‘naughty’. Here’s the book –  it’s a classic.
Heart of the Mind: Engaging Your Inner Power to Change with Neurolinguistic Programming

Oh in closing, be sure to checkout my Interview on BBC Radio here where I talk about NLP, and go to my main site at West Essex Hypnotherapy to sign up for a FREE 30 minute Hypnosis MP3 on Relaxation! Get in!



P.S. Remember to get in touch for more information about sessions for you as a parent or your children!

  1. Dan KendallDan Kendall09-21-2009

    Hi Al

    I love the post mate, informative and to the point as always, put across in you’re own unique style!!

    This is such a valuable subject, there is so much more we can do differently/ better to give the littlen’s the best possible start!!

    Keep on fighting the good fight mate – catch up soon


  2. Sarah BoothSarah Booth09-22-2009

    My Dad always smiled at me after I’d done a face plant or something. Or said, “You’re just fine” as he smiled. SO, I smiled back. He sometimes laughed too as we are a family of vaudevillians in normal people clothes. When I’m ever with a little kid who has almost fallen. I say something like, “Well, THAT was exciting, wasn’t it?” Once they realize they weren’t hurt they smile, unless they’ve got a parent who seems to over coddle and nurture hurts where there aren’t any which I think makes a child try and illicit attention. I’m not a professional, but I find the way my dad dealt with the issue a great one as I never concentrated long on the ‘hurt’ and kept going. However, I think in my 20+30s I should have lain there and waited for help instead of jumping up in embarrassment saying, “I’m fine” Woo- hoo… off we go again… But that’s another story. Great Article Alan. I totally agree with you about not sending out warnings and negatives like Don’ts and Hurts. that register more than the whole context of the sentence.

  3. adminadmin09-22-2009

    Thank’s Sarah…

    And I think your old man had it right.


  1. Kylie Batt05-19-10