This One Simple Language Technique Can Make Parenting Toddlers Easier

This One Simple Language Technique Can Make Parenting Toddlers Easier

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By Chris Thompson, author, parenting expert and certified NLP practitioner

Parenting toddlers can be a frustrating experience. Kids don’t always listen to us. That’s putting it mildly, isn’t it?

I know you struggle at times to get your kids to do simple things. Stuff like coming to the table when it’s time for dinner. Or how about brushing teeth at night? Even putting on pajamas for bed or getting dressed in the morning can be a chore.

If you start using this one simple technique, you’ll experience more success and less frustration. I call it the illusion of choice. It’s official name is the “double bind”.

The Double Bind is Used in Hypnosis

As a master hypnotist and NLP practitioner, I learned this technique many years ago. I became skilled at using double binds in social and business situations. When I became a father I realized how powerful this same tool would be for parents.

After all, communication tools are just communication tools, no matter who the audience. You just need to adapt the tools to suit toddlers, preschoolers or whatever.

So let’s dive in. A “double bind” is a question that you ask to someone else. But it’s a special sort of question. There are two requirements to form a double bind.

First, the question has to present two choices. Second, the two choices both have to give you the outcome that you’re after.

I’ll give you an example I use on my wife sometimes (but don’t tell her!) She often likes silence whereas I like some music playing in the background. Knowing this, I can walk over to my music collection and say, “Honey would you rather me put on something
from my favorites, or that new album you bought on iTunes yesterday?”

Understand that my objective is to get some music playing, and to avoid resistance. Most of the time, language “tricks” like this work very well.

Using Double Binds in Parenting Toddlers and Young Kids

You can now start to think of natural ways to extend this tool towards parenting situations. Say you’re serving dinner and your toddler is busy playing. Try something like this: “Brandon – do you want to pick out your own cup for dinner, or should I just bring it to you at the table?”

We can call these friendly double binds because they are presented as hidden choices. If the other person (your spouse, a child, etc) is not particularly resistive to the “choices”, they will pick one without a fuss, and without realizing you did anything.

But you can also use a double bind when you’re facing strong resistance. Imagine that, despite your best efforts, your daughter simply refuses to go to the car. You have somewhere you need to be. You can use this: “Julie – it’s time to get in the car. Would you like to walk with me or is it better if I carry you?”

The 3C Rule to Successful Double Binds

You must be calm, congruent and consistent. This means speaking without all kinds of emotions pouring out. It means sounding like you mean what you say. And finally, it means not backing down or negotiating.

In the above example, most children will choose to remain in control by voluntarily walking to the car with you. This illusion of control, to them, is better than being carried kicking and screaming to the car.

Always give kids a choice, even if the choice is simply an illusion!

Once you realize the power of the double bind, you can start to find ways to practice it in your daily life. Sneak this little trick into conversations with people you spend time with. Practice with your kids. You’ll have fun and enjoy the process.

Elevate Your Parenting Skills

Double binds can be made even more powerful by combining them with many of the other language (and non-verbal) tactics that I teach to parents.

Take your parenting skills to the next level with my complete home-study audio course, “Talking to Toddlers: Dealing with the Terrible Twos and Beyond”.

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For further reading, you might want to check out Using Distraction to Change the Focus of Behavior in Children and Three Year Old Behavior.

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