Why Diets Shouldn’t Tell You What Not To Eat

February 17, 2015 3:00 PM

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I have a 7-year-old daughter who has the annoying desire to play with my belongings, which often results in things getting lost or broken. One approach to getting her to stop this behavior is to follow her around and tell her “no.” If I tell her to stop playing with my clothes, she’ll go play with my makeup. I tell her no, and she’ll start to play with my computer. If I keep up with the routine of telling her "no" to everything she tries to do, two things will happen. Our whole day will be filled with negative exchanges, and she'll become increasingly frustrated. A better parenting approach is to fill her day with positive activities. I could set up an art project on the kitchen table; arrange a play date at the nearby sledding hill. The possibilities are endless.

This approach of reinforcing healthy behavior while ignoring the unhealthy comes from behavioral science and is not just applied to parenting. Behavioral treatments for depression are also heavily based on this approach. As psychologists, we don't tell people with depression to stop feeling bad, sto...

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