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So a guy asks his girlfriend, ‘where do you want to go on vacation?’, and she says ‘Not Texas.’

He says ‘why not?’, and she explains all of the reasons why she doesn’t want to go to Texas. It’s too hot, too many bugs, she doesn’t like petroleum, whatever. By expanding on the list, they manage to cross out fully a third of the globe. They now have only several hundred thousand amazing places to choose between.

So he asks her again: ‘where do you want to go on vacation?’, and she says, ‘Dunno.’

This is not a good way to have an awesome vacation. It’s also a crappy way to become a good father. Knowing what you want to NOT do isn’t ever going to get you to the point where you know what you want TO do, because there are millions of human behaviors and crossing off even 90% of them is still going to leave you unsure of whether you should take your son bowling, or buy him a Wii and teach him how to play Wii Bowling instead.

The same can be said for basically any behavior, by the way. One of the most important steps to getting rid of an unwanted behavior is to choose another behavior to replace it. For example, when I decided to stop yelling at my son, one of the things I did was work to recognize when I had my ‘yelling face’ on, and then replace it with a smile (however artificial and forced.)

“Not yelling” isn’t a behavior. “Smiling” is, and it’s one you can consciously aim toward.

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