Maybe a better title is “Parents and children in barns”. It is so normal to teach children “Don’t run in the stables, don’t pet strange horses and don’t walk behind a horse”. Does it help? I have seen so many times that parents, mostly moms, keep yelling the same phrases for years. Without results. Why would that be?
I am not a psychologist but I did read a lot about Neuro Liguistic Programming (NLP). The brain works like this: it focuses on the most important piece of information in the sentence: “run”, “pet” and “walk”. The brain has trouble focusing on the negative (the don’t), so the brain processes the rest: “…run in the stables”, “…pet strange horses” and “… walk behind the horse”. Does that make sense? Do you see it happening? Yes, that is how the brain works. Do not think about an elephant. (I’ve always had trouble thinking of an pink elephant). A simple rule is: focus on what you do want to happen in the barn. On how you do want your child to act around horses.
Here are my rules in the barn:
- Always walk in the stable
- Use your “indoor voice”. Horses have sensitive ears.
- Ask permission before feeding or petting a horse
- Ask: “Is it safe?” and wait for an answer if there is a horse you have to walk by.
- You can give the commands to our horse, but mommy click & treats the horse.
These rules were wonderful for a 3 year old. Along the way, kids get more responsibilities and that means rules can change or other rules are added.