Devin: Can I drink daddy juice?
Me: No, don’t touch that glass. You are too young for wine, you can get very sick.
Devin: Will I go to timeout?
Devin: Will you get angry?
Devin: Why not?
Me: Good question, come here and I’ll tell you a story.
Devin: Is it about scientists and esperiments again?
Me: Yes. Once upon a time, some scientists invited two groups of little boys into two different classrooms that had cool toy robots sitting in all the corners. But the kids were not allowed to play with them. The scientists told one room of boys, “If you play with the robots, we will be very angry and will have to do something about it.” The other group was told more nicely, “Please, do not play with the robots. It is wrong to play with the robots.” Then the scientists left but there were secret cameras in the rooms. The boys didn’t know the scientists were watching to see if the kids played with the robots.
Devin: Did anyone play with the robots?
Me: Almost everybody did, in both rooms.
Me: Yeah, just like I know you would try and drink this daddy juice if I left you alone in the kitchen, the scientists knew the robots looked too tempting. They were expecting the kids to play with them. But about six weeks later, they did another experiment with the same kids.
Devin: What did they do this time?
Me: The scientists brought all the boys in a room with a lot of toys, including those same robots. This time, the kids could play with any toys that they wanted. Surprisingly, most of the kids that were nicely told that the robots were wrong to play with in the first experiment, didn’t play with them. But almost all the kids that were told of how the scientists would get angry in the first experiment, now played with the robots.
Devin: What was the cloncusen?
Me: The conclusion? Well, parents shouldn’t use threats when kids are tempted to do something bad. It might work in the short term, but when kids are older and go to college, they will become curious and try things they were not allowed to do when they were young. And the things that angered their parents the most, will probably seem the coolest and the most attractive.
Devin: Good story, daddy. Now, can I go play?
Me: Thanks, buddy. Yeah, go play. But remember, don’t go near daddy’s books or mommy’s treadmill again, or you will be in big trouble!