Increasing Flexibility with the Power of ‘And’ Thinking

Increasing Flexibility with the Power of ‘And’ Thinking

Does your child say ‘but, but, but’ when you are trying to have a discussion or give a direction? A positive way to encourage children to be more flexible, and to discuss rather than argue, is to promote the use of ‘and’ thinking.

‘And’ is a word that keeps communications open and flowing. ‘But’ is a word that slows us down and creates road blocks to communicating.

As parents or adult caregivers, we can model this great path to creative and positive discussion.  Consider the different tone and implication of these two statements.

            I am tired but I wanted to go for a walk.

            I am tired and I wanted to go for a walk.

Do you feel how much more negative the first version is?  It has a defeatist sound, almost as if the decision has already been made not to take a walk.

The second version, with ‘and,’ seems to hold possibilities and reminds us there are options.

… and I can take a walk even though I am tired. It might perk me up.

 … and I could take a shorter walk.

 … and I could rest a little and then take a walk.

Try this with your child. Use ‘and’ instead of ‘but.’ For example, replace ‘we were going to go to the pool but it is raining’ with ‘we were going to go to the pool and it is raining.’ Your intention is to then say ‘Let’s order pizza and play your favorite board games today. We can go to the pool tomorrow when it is not raining.’  In the first case, many children stop listening when they hear ‘but.’ They expect bad news to follow. They go immediately to being mad, sad, or having a tantrum. With the use of ‘and,’ they continue to listen. Hopefully they stay calm enough to take in the information that they’ll be going to the pool tomorrow and today they’ll have pizza and play games!

Another way to use ‘and’ is as a problem solving cue. For example, you remind your child it is time to do homework or a chore. They say, ‘but I am talking to a friend’ or ‘but the show or game is not over.’ Sometimes if the adult responds by saying the word ‘and’ with a questioning inflection and perhaps opening the hands or raising the shoulders, it is enough to encourage the child to offer a solution or to comply rather than argue.

Look for opportunities to use ‘and’ in your interactions with your child. Say ‘and’ statements out loud when with your child so they can see how you use ‘and’ to be positive and to problem solve.

Look for opportunities to coach the use of ‘and’ by your child. When the child says ‘but’ ask them to substitute ‘and.’ You may need to give suggestions at first. However, even very young children catch on quickly and enjoy the positive atmosphere that develops.

Using ‘and’ will not automatically end tantrums or get all the homework done on time. It is one more tool in your parenting kit to help you raise a positive, creative, and fairly cooperative child.



Blog Disclaimer:  Please be aware that this blog contains general information. It is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended as treatment or a recommendation or prescription for a particular child. If you have questions about your child, please talk to your pediatrician or seek other professional services.