Priming and Food on the Floor

Don’t imagine a pink elephant? I’m going to bet that most of you imagined a pink elephant. But why, I told you not to? 

‘Priming’ is a substance that prepares something for action and we are priming our children all the time with our words or actions. When we say “don’t throw the food on the floor” their brain hears ‘throw the food on the floor’. We have inadvertently primed our child’s brain to throw food onto the floor. 

For a toddler to use their rapidly developing, but still significantly underdeveloped brain, to come up with alternatives in that moment is very difficult. So our role is to be the ‘primer’ and help them with alternatives. As you can tell we have had a ‘food on the floor’ problem in our house where our 18 month old just seemed to have this innate need to throw food on the floor (aghh). We have replaced “don’t throw that on the floor” with “food goes on the plate or in your mouth”. With this shift we have set the expectation and primed the brain, which has led to about a 95% success rate, much to the disappointment of our dogs.

Any sentence that starts with ‘don’t’ is probably one we can reflect upon and instead explore how else we can support our children. What comes to mind for you? 

Enjoyed the read? Subscribe to get them straight to your inbox.

* indicates required