January 17, 2008

Don't makes you Do

The introduction to one of the books I am reading for work is called "Don't". It is sort of cliche and an interesting chapter name for book called "Tough Choices" and geared at young adult's. The word "don't" doesn't resonate well with young adults or adults for that matter. "Don't" isn't really a word its a contraction of Do Not. It is a command, it is often used in rules and regulations. This in itself makes "don't" an unlikeable word by any normal teenager. Don't eat that, Don't touch that, Don't grab, Don't swear, Don't yell. Don't can be used in a more subtle way, "Don't you think you should be quieter", however often times the person giving the "don't" statement is past patience and isn't acting in a calm way and therefore Don't comes out more of a command.

An often used "don't" statement in our family is, "Don't lean back in your chair while at the dinner table", it usually comes out as DON'T DO THAT!. "that" meaning lean back in your chair while eating dinner. My Grandma and Grandpa probably uttered this statement in this manner 1,000 times between all of us cousins, sometimes numerous times to numerous people at one meal. Melissa was known to be the stubborn one in the family. She often ignored warnings and butt heads with those in authority. This particular meal she was the recipient of the command Don't do that several times before she finally leaned her chair (on purpose) so far back that she tipped backwards falling into the china cabinet. Needless to say the actions that happened after this are irrelevant but I am sure you can imagine what happened next.

The purpose of this story is to reinforce the authors (John Langone) point, Don't makes you do. He says, "Sometimes, a plain "don't" works. At other times, though, "don't" goes in one ear, as they say, and out the other. And when there are too many "don't"s, they often have the opposite effect: They make you do."

He goes on to talk about all the Don't that will be in his book about addiction, drugs, alcohol, etc. He makes the statement that the "don't"s in his book will be accompanied by something that often angry, stern "don't"s don't get paired up with and that is the reason for the "don't". When my grandma said don't rock back on your chair she never said, don't do that you might get hurt, don't do that you are going to knock into the china cabinet, don't do that you are going to break a really expensive glass in the china cabinet and have to use your allowance to pay for it. Perhaps if she had Melissa wouldn't have done what she did (she might have, but she might not).

Just telling someone "don't" is only telling part of the advice and it rarely gets the point across. Often teenagers and people in general hear "don't" and tune out. In my case I know this is true, there is a bit of research based evidence on this but mostly its trial and error evidence. If I go in to speak to a group of teenagers and tell them Don't use drugs, Don't drink, Don't succumb to peer pressure they will make fun of me, they will joke about it, they will probably still be asked to smoke pot and they will probably try it and possibly get addicted. Instead I have to go in there and give them solid reasons why they shouldn't do the things I am about to tell them not to do. In prevention we call it the scare factor. Our parents don't like the scare factor because they think its irrelevant to tell our perfect rich Oakland County students about kids dying, because that doesn't actually happen in real life. IT actually DOES happen in real life and this type of prevention DOES work.

Just a thought I had after reading the short introduction to Tough Choices by John Langone.

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