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"Because I Told You So!"

By Beth Proudfoot, LMFT



We’ve been having fun here at the Child & Family Counseling Group, trying out some experiments in the use of language with children. We’ve been reading a wonderful new book, Magic Words: What to Say to Get Your Way by Jonah Berger, and applying his research-based concepts to how parents and teachers can use words more effectively with children. OMG, there actually is a bit of magic here! We’ve been trying this stuff not only with our clients but with our own children, our grandchildren, our husbands…and I caught one of my staff using it with me!

 

Here's an easy one that we can try with even with very young kids: instead of asking them to do something, ask them to be someone. Here are some examples.

 

  •   “I’ve got my hands full here. Can you guys please be helpers and get the plates and napkins on the table?

  • “How about you be the pooper-scooper while I put the outside toys away?

  • “Okay, be a scholar and get your homework done before we go to the park.”

 

The theory is that we all want to think well of ourselves and that defining the chore as being a part of who we are makes us much more likely to do it.

 

Another magic word is “because.” The reason doesn’t seem to matter, as long as it’s not “because I said so.” Adding the “because” to the “-er” can be especially potent. Why? Because it helps, I guess, to know there’s a reason. Examples:

 

  • “You be the cleaner-upper because I can’t cook when it’s messy.”

  • “Please be the laundry folder now because we need to get our chores done.”  

This magic doesn’t work every time. "Be a scientist" and experiment with this, though, "because" it could be really effective.

 

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