Psychologies works with selected partners who pay to promote their products and services. Learn More

Were you labeled a ‘Bull in a China Shop’?

By being aware of how the ‘don’t’ can impact the ‘do’, we learn that by changing the inner dialogue we can come out with healthier alternatives… Written by Ollie Coach, Lynne Collins.

I feel sure that many of us as children have been given this loving label, you know that time when you go shopping with your mum, dad or the whole family. 

As a child I was quite clumsy or that’s what I was told by my mum.   I can vividly recall the same words being said over and over as I’d walk into a glassware or crockery area of a shop….

Don’t break anything’

‘Don’t touch anything’

‘Don’t run around’

Now, to my knowledge I’m not aware that I ever did break anything, and yet I seemed to had been given this label of ‘Bull in a China Shop’

I realise now as an adult that my mum was concerned that it may happen so wanted to pre-empt it happening by telling me ‘dont’.

I wonder how many other of you have had this same experience and how many of you find you say the same thing to your children? 

Have you wondered that by using the word ‘don’t’ it then gives you the ‘do?

Heres the thing, our brains are unable to process the word ‘don’t’ so telling a child ‘don’t break anything’ only causes the child to think of it more and more and will likely encourage them to do it anyway.

Let us put it another way, it’s quite simple, when you want to think about something you do, have a go with this and anything you can think of…

Don’t think of your favourite food

Don’t think of the way that food will taste when you take your first bite the flavour

Don’t think of how that food makes you feel, all warm and content inside

Its good isn’t it, I really want may favourite food now!

The point to this is we know that telling ourselves and others not to do something firmly instills the idea in our brains instead, and likely encouraging us to do it anyway.  Which can led to mis-labelling and an inner dialogue, which we can hold onto throughout our lives.

Don’t eat the sweets saved for the weekend, don’t hit your sister, don’t stare at that person.  You are more inclined to do all of those things simply by telling yourself or others not too. 

By being aware of how the ‘don’t’ can impact the ‘do’, we learn that by changing the inner dialogue we can come out with healthier alternatives…

‘Remember to hold my hand in this shop’, ‘let’s look at those things together’, ‘how about looking at it this way’, ‘we can be good in here’.  There are many alternatives, have a play, see which give you the connection and results.

You see a child is curious to explore and learn where they can.  At such a young age they are like little sponges, taking in everything around us (like a camera snapshots an event) every little detail is being recorded ‘what mum is saying’ ‘how it made me feel’ ‘how is mum feeling’ ‘how old am I’ all those tiny little details we are so unaware of, it is happening right there in the moment.   This detail is shaping the future child and its with these learnings that we learn what is.

I still sometimes walk into a shop and think ‘don’t break anything’ (as I hear my mums voice in my head) it now makes me feel warm inside, I was so young, I knew no different, for me now however, I’m not a ‘bull in a china shop’ unless I don’t want to be!!

Lynne Collins, Ollie Coach

My background is in Corporate Communication Companies, in customer centric roles spanning 25+ years.  When my health failed, some ten years ago, I started exploring the creative art of gardening and design, which led me to look into many therapies and how each one can aid healing and development.  I have always had a keen interest in Psychology and what makes us all work and behave as we do.   I now, as an Ollie Coach, specialise in working with those who seek to become all they need to be without the limitation of box ticking, labels and expectations

To get in contact with Lynne, email

To find out more about Ollie and his Super Powers and how to become an Ollie Coach go to

Caroline Chipper

Caroline Chipper


Co founder of Subconquest Ltd, that trades as Ollie and his Super Powers. My many years of commercial experience is being put to good use managing the business side of Ollie, including working with our Ollie Coaches, and managing our contracts. In everything we do its about making a difference to those we work with. To find out more go to

Enable referrer and click cookie to search for eefc48a8bf715c1b ad9bf81e74a9d264 [] 2.7.22