"Instant Obedience"Is That Really What You Want?

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Sunday, September 27, 2015

"Instant Obedience"

Is That Really What You Want?

The Reno Gazette Journal ran an article yesterday by one John Rosemond, author of such books as “Because I Said So” and “Parent Power.” The headline promised “instant obedience” if parents would only follow Rosemond’s six steps. I was intrigued: I’m something of a parenting “expert” myself, having authored or co-authored several books in the bestselling Positive Discipline series, as well as The Everything Parent’s Guide to Raising Boys. I have a weekly parenting commentary on KUNR-FM and spend most of my professional life teaching and coaching parents and professionals about how to work with kids. And in my humble opinion, expecting a child to obey every time you instruct him to do something does not teach the sorts of life skills, character qualities, and abilities most parents tell me they want for their kids. 

            You can certainly train a child to jump every time you issue a command. What you don’t see, however, is what’s happening on the inside—the beliefs and decisions that child is forming about himself, you, and how the world works. No one learns critical thinking, good judgment, or problem solving by doing whatever the biggest person with the loudest voice tells him to. Questioning authority, as long as it’s done respectfully, is an important part of the learning process.  So I thought I’d take a closer look at Rosemond’s six steps.

            Step One. Tower at your full height over your child. Do not get down on her level or make any attempt to get eye contact. Doing so, says Rosemond, makes parents adopt a “pleading” tone of voice, which is giving up power. Not so. It is entirely possible to get on your child’s level, maintain a friendly tone of voice, and still mean every word you say. Your child knows when you mean it—and she knows when you don’t. Look her in the eye, keep your voice firm, and let her know what you’d like her to do. You can even smile. Then—and this is important--follow through.

            Step Two. Use the fewest words possible. I agree with Rosemond on this one. Most parents talk far too much, and lots of words invite debate and negotiation. See if you can tell your child what’s going on for you in one word, like “homework” or “bedtime.” If you must, use ten words or less. Remember, use a firm but friendly tone of voice. When you’ve said what you mean, smile and silently point at your watch. Your child will understand.

            Step Three. Don’t explain yourself because explanations invite argument. This is simply wrong-headed and pointless. You shouldn’t justify yourself or beg your child, but it can be useful to help your child understand why something matters. If it’s a safety issue, like playing in the street, act first—but explain when you have time. How are kids supposed to learn if adults won’t take time to teach them? 

            Step Four. The only explanation you should give is, “because I said so.” Good thing Rosemond wasn’t advising George Washington and the signers of the Declaration of Independence: we’d still be a British colony. Accepting the loudest voice in the room as truth does not lead to good judgment. Dads, do you want your adolescent daughters obeying the biggest, loudest guy? I didn’t think so.

            Step Five. Don’t end an instruction with the word “okay.” This is pretty good advice, since “okay?” tends to indicate that there’s room for argument. Think first, then let your child know what needs to happen next in a kind, firm voice. Again, follow through. 

            Step Six. Give commands, then turn and walk away. Really? How would this feel to most adults? Good parenting is firm because kids needs to learn to respect you and the situation, but it is kind because children are people and like all of us, they do better when they feel connected and valued. Adults have more rights than children, but they do not have inherently more worth. Shaming or humiliating another human being, no matter what age, will never get you that person’s best efforts.

            I have a question for John Rosemond. Why would you ever want “instant obedience” from a child in the first place? Most of the parents I know appreciate cooperation, but they don’t actually want blind submission from their kids. The research on parenting is clear. The authoritarian “because I said so” approach that Rosemond espouses is not effective in the long term, and usually produces either defiance or passivity. Neither of these is a quality most parents want for their child. But permissiveness doesn’t work, either. The Millennial generation, raised on trophies, praise, and the importance of their own happiness, are struggling to live productive lives and to work hard for what they want.

The most effective way to parent is to blend firmness and kindness at the same time, what is called “authoritative” parenting--or Positive Discipline. Kids need respect and connection; they also need to know that they can rely on adults to say what they mean, mean what they say, and follow through with respect and dignity. That’s how trust is created. Sure, it’s easier to order people around, but my 25 years of experience says it’s not the most effective approach.

| Posted by cheryl | Sunday, September 27, 2015 |


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