Have you ever tried to lose a little weight or eat healthier? Have you ever told yourself, “Don’t eat that brownie” only to find yourself moments or maybe even hours later EATING THE BROWNIE?!

It turns out that when we tell our brain NOT to do something, it fixates on that thing and wants it more than ever. Makes sense. It’s better to tell the brain what to do rather than what not to do. Eat the carrots, go for a walk.

What are the implications for disciplining students? If you are like me, you tell them what not to do far more often than what to do. Stop talking. Quit daydreaming. Don’t procrastinate. Then their brains focus on that thing and they have to work real hard not to do the very thing you just asked of them. The younger the student the harder it is to control this impulse.

Take a moment over the course of the next few days to notice how many times you tell them or yourself what not to do. Switch it to telling them what to do instead. If you catch yourself with a negative statement, quickly follow it with a positive one: Stop talking. Complete the assignment. The more specific you can be in your instructions on what to do, the better. Four-Happy-Children1