An oxymoron is a figure of speech where two parts of a statement contradict one another. Like jumbo shrimp, bitter sweet or act naturally. Command respect has to qualify because respect has to be earned. Why do we as parents still try to command our children to do things that cannot be commanded?
I’ve listened with a smile as a mother of toddlers enters a public workspace and begins to tell everyone in the room what they are now going to do. Like she is mom to the world. Her toddler jumps when she says jump so everyone else must respond to her overwhelming authority, right?
Dads are no better. Yelling “Listen to me!” is almost guaranteed to shut the heart if not the ears of a child or teenager. “You’d better get in here right now!” will motivate the average child to compete with a turtle for speed.
Commands might work for a while in the lives of younger children. When telling children to pick up their toys leads to another bruised foot on a toy left in the hallway, most parents begin to see the end coming to their precious command authority. If it really ever existed, authority based on commands quickly becomes a thing of the past.
You attract ants with sugar. You draw flies to honey. You motivate children with encouragement. Using a little humor has long been the better solution to gaining cooperation. We all freeze when we tense up. Yelling commands tightens their body with tension. Bragging about how your kids are afraid of you is only a lie designed to reassure your waning success.
Even when kids jump because we bark orders, be sure that they crawl as soon as we quit looking. This kind of respect, if you can even call it respect, ends when we are no longer present. They complain about how we are always nagging them. They find other things to do rather than do what we told them to do. Resist, refuse and rebel become their new watchwords. That’s right. Rebellion. We actually encourage our children to do the opposite of what we would want simply by the manner in which we consistently approach them.
Does this mean that parents have no authority? Ask a winning coach. Players would do anything for a coach they love and admire. Respect flows with admiration. Hard work is inspired rather than demanded. Deep satisfaction and enjoyment accompany a sport where good coaches dwell.
Base your authority on good advice, calmly given and carefully modeled. Your kids learn to drive when they are five years old by watching how you drive. The same goes for respect. Give it to them and watch them return it to you again. Give your respect to the authority figures in their life and they will also respect those authority figures.
Our words get in the way. The fewer words we use, the more we encourage others to listen. Explaining why something should be done rarely influences a child’s obedience. Ask for what you want. Whisper instead of yell. Speak in phrases instead of paragraphs. Speak for yourself using enforceable statements. Tell them what you will do or allow rather than trying to command anything. Follow these principles and watch their respect grow. It’s better and it’s more enjoyable.