Why Telling and Lecturing Don’t Work

Many parents and teachers rely on telling and/or lecturing as a discipline strategy. It certainly seems to be a better choice than imposing a punishment or offering a reward. But using telling/lecturing as discipline is equally ineffective. Following are six reasons why telling/lecturing is a poor discipline strategy, and what to do instead.

  1. After childhood, telling is often interpreted as an attempt to control.
  2. Whenever we tell people what to do, we convey a subtle, negative message that what they have been doing is wrong or not good enough.
  3. Even if you have an excellent relationship with the person, telling often creates defensiveness—even when the person feels that what you are telling is in the person’s own best interest. That is why there is a tendency to resist—especially when telling involves notifying others how they personally need to do something differently.
  4. Telling implies that something has to be changed. People don’t mind change as much as they mind being told to change.
  5. People love to control but hate to be controlled. This is especially true for adolescents who are attempting to assert their independence.
  6. Telling is akin to rewards and punishment in that all three are external attempts to change behavior.

Since people are sensitive about being told what to do—yet at times help is perfectly appropriate—think in terms of suggestions and sharing ideas. Present the suggestion in a question format, e.g., “What do you think about . . . . ?” “Have you thought of . . . . ?” “Would you consider . . . . ?”

Remember, responsibility is taken, not told.