Here’s where we are in the Universal Blueprint® Problem-Solving System / PASRR Formula:
Prevent Problems from starting or worsening … with the
        Prevention Toolbox: Cooperation Toolset

The Cooperation Toolset has 15 practical tools for getting children to cooperate without bribes, rewards, incentives, power struggles or defiance. It also is the only toolset with two five-star tools. Here is the first one.

You and just about every other parent has probably experienced this:

You tell your child, “Don’t run, you might fall.”

He/She proceeds to run…and, of course, falls.

Then you scratch your head in exasperation and say, “Didn’t I just tell you not to do that? Why don’t you ever listen?”

Ever wonder why this happens? (Watch the “Don’t Say Don’t” video for full details.)  Read the four reasons below:

  1. The mind operates in pictures. If I say “apple,” do you picture the letters a-p-p-l-e or imagine a round juicy apple? The picture, of course!
  2. The mind doesn’t hear negative commands, it just sees the picture. If I say “Don’t think of a purple elephant,” your mind immediately pictures a purple elephant. It doesn’t hear “Don’t.” It simply pictures the image I describe. So if you say to children, “Don’t spill your drink,” they picture spilling their drink.
  3. The mind doesn’t know the difference between a real and imagined event. The first time you experience an upsetting event, like a snake slithering past your feet, you naturally experience strong emotions and physical changes, like a flushed face or speeding heart rate. But then, every time you replay that event, you can experience the same emotions and physical changes. It’s the thought that causes the emotions, not the event, so your body reacts whenever you experience that event, whether it’s real or imagined. (More about that in Lesson 18 when we discuss anger and stress.)
  4. If you can imagine it, you are more likely to do it — positive or negative, success or failure. If you can see yourself doing something in your mind, you are more likely to do it. For example, a track coach doesn’t tell a hurdle jumper, “Don’t trip over the hurdles!” He wants the runner to imagine being light as air, as graceful as a gazelle, and clearing the hurdles with ease. So when children hear, “Don’t spill your drink,” they picture spilling their drink and then what often happens? They spill their drink!

Both adults and children respond better to positive directions that create a picture of success. Saying “don’t,” “stop” or “quit” and describing negative behavior offers no helpful information about the value of the request or the behavior you want to see.

The same thing applies to “‘no’ rules,” such as “No running!” Whenever possible, you want to flip your attitude, thoughts, and words from negative to positive. You want to describe the behavior you want to see, so children will see it in their minds — and then do it!

Here are three examples:



“Don’t play so loudly!” “Use your inside voices,” or “Play quietly.”
“Stop arguing!” “Find out what you both need and make an agreement.”
“Quit XE “Whining&” “whining.” “Talk so I can understand you.”
“No splashing!” “Keep the water in the tub.”

“Don’t Say Don’t” is the second of five five-star tools («««««) you’ll learn and need to use and master to get maximum results. This tool is quite possibly THE most effective tool for getting cooperation and is definitely the tool parents see the most immediate results from using!

Out of all 150 tools, this is my and other parents’ favorite.  I have enough parents’ stories to fill a book about the amazing, usually instantaneous positive results they’ve gotten from using this tool. Here is just one.

It had been years since Denita had taken her four children shopping with her. Tommy, age 9, was a particular problem. He would take off running through the store, not come back when she called him, and she’d end up chasing him around the store. She’d lectured him, punished him, and even taken away toys she’d bought him. Finally, even though she was a single mother working three jobs to make ends meet, she would either get a sitter or do her shopping while the kids were in school.

After learning “Don’t Say ‘Don’t’” in the T.I.P.S. class, Denita decided to try taking the kids to the store one more time. This time, she told them, “When we are at the store, I need you to stay close to me. We are only getting what’s on the list and I will need your help finding items. Will you help me?” They all agreed.

To her shock and pleasant surprise, she only had to tell her children once and Tommy twice, “stay with me.” Eight weeks later, at the end of the class, she was still shopping with all the children with ease and Tommy had not even tried to run off. She was amazed that the solution was so simple after all the years of lectures, frustration and hassles.

Now, I have to warn you, this tool can be awkward to use at first, but the results are worth the effort. If you have trouble flipping a “don’t” around, imagine how difficult it is for children! If you start your sentence with “move, put, keep or other verbs, you’ll create positive directions easier and your children will understand faster.

For more info on this specific tool, as well as an overview of all of the cooperation concepts and tools, get the session from the Lunch & Learn audio series called, “Get Cooperation Without Squeezing the Juice out of Kids!”


1.       If you hear yourself saying an unhelpful “don’t,” “stop,” “quit” or “‘no rule,” just think about what you want your child to do and describe it.  Practice this by writing common negative statements and then rewording them in the positive:

Reword it (what do you want them TO do?)

Reword it (what do you want them TO do?)

Reword it (what do you want them TO do?)

Reword it (what do you want them TO do?)

Learn more about using the “Don’t Say Don’t” five-star tool by getting the “Get Cooperation Without Squeezing the Juice out of Kids!” audio in the Lunch & Learn audio series.