The worst feeling in the world as a parent is to want something from your child and be met with a blank stare…the “I’m not going to do that,” look. Whether it is your invitation to come to the dinner table or to turn off the video game for a conversation, no parent likes being ignored when they try to parent their child.
Your options seem limited. Using force and threats is the closest and easiest option. Giving that stern, threatening stare back to a defiant child seems to return the favor of a look that stops you cold. Unfortunately, that is often ineffective for a variety of reasons.
What if you could exercise power over your child’s wants and wishes? What if you could invite them to dinner or ask that a video game be paused and obtain an immediate positive response? Would that be worth investing some energy in a new line of thought?
Earning respect is the path to cooperation. Respect doesn’t come from being forced. Respect isn’t the product of the last spanking you gave your child. Respect is gained over time through very deliberate and consistent means.
This week’s email from Dr. Charles Fay promoted several ways to communicate respect. The first two seems to summarize this concept best.
Dr. Fay’s first message was, “I believe the best way to gain respect is to show people what it looks like.” That means we gain respect by giving and showing respect. Modeling respect promotes respect. It means approaching our children in a respectful way instead of approaching them like a threatening bully.
We take cues from our last defiant encounter with our children and approach them as if the next interchange will be identical. We come with our guard up and our fist tightened. We use a stern look and expect a friendly smile in return. Force will be met with resistance every time.
The second message speaks to the method of showing our children what respect looks like. He went on to say, “I promise to do my best to treat you like I hope to be treated.” A calm voice and gentle approach lowers our child’s resistance before our words even come out of our mouths. Beginning with a request instead of a demand keeps the situation calm. Offering a respectful interchange invites a respectful response.
Over time, respect invests in parental power. Our children will jump over the moon for someone they respect. They will comply with our wishes, cooperate on difficult tasks and even place their own desires behind our requests. Respect produces real parenting power. Force compromises it.
The world isn’t that simple, you say? Think about your last encounter in a customer service situation. You took your issue to the counter and the person gave you a friendly, cooperative greeting. Instead of taking cues from your frustration, they gave you the respectful message that they intended to help you. Did it go smoothly? Unlike when you got a scowl back for your frustrated approach? In all of life, respect encourages respect. The principle is as old as the sages of history. Even Jesus wasn’t the first one to employ something like the Golden Rule. Why not invest in a different kind of power this year? Build the cooperation and respect in your children by approaching them like valuable, loved human beings instead of slaves. Speak to them in kind tones rather than threatening tones. Stop what you are doing to listen to them when they approach you. Show them what respect looks like and treat them as you want to be treated. That’s real parenting power.