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I was in Los Angeles last weekend, walking around DTLA and people watching and observed something I had seen thousands of times over the years: Parents telling their kids what to do. Not in the sense of "Throw away your trash" or "Come here", but things like "You need to trust me" and "Calm down". It occurred to me that the most effective parents, the ones that have a deep relationship with their child, and the ones that ultimately raise physically & emotionally healthy children that go on to lead independent, successful & fulfilling lives, all have 1 trait in common. They don't use declarations to shape their relationship with their child. They use demonstrations. It's one thing to constantly declare that you can be trusted, you should be respected, or you are an authority. It's another thing entirely to demonstrate that you can be trusted, you are respectable and you are knowledgeable. The parents that we see in our work that are effective are the ones that take time to say all they need to say through their actions, not their words. It's often the little things that send these messages through demonstrations. When your child wants to share something with you, do you brush it off? Are you genuinely interested? How do you model dealing with your own stress, fear and insecurities? The way you show up in the world demonstrates to your child what is important, and, in turn, how they fit into the world.
This is a paradigm shift that changed my life, so I'd like to share it with you: When we want to change something about a person, place or thing, it is very common in our society to ask "How can I get X to...?" "How can I get my daughter to do her homework?" "How can I get my husband to finally pick up his socks?" "How can I get my computer to stop freezing on me?" Yet when we ask "How can I get?" there are some hidden assumptions there that can be very dangerous and damaging to the relationships we've built in our life. When we ask "How can I get?" it implies that we need to exert force and control on someone or something in order to bend it/them to our will. The natural answer to "How can I get?" is to use some sort of force, manipulation or coercion in order to achieve the end result. How do you get your daughter to do her homework? Threaten to take away her phone or computer of course! How do you get your husband to pickup his socks? Bribe him (or threaten to not do his laundry anymore). The problem with "How can I get?" is that the use of force has the unintended consequence of eroding trust and damaging good will. No one likes to be forced to do something, and the more you force, the more trust is eroded. This is why websites that constantly use clickbait articles tend to be more hated. Their business model is all about manipulating you and tricking you into clicking, instead of just stating "This happened" and relying on a solid relationship they have built. The good news is that there is another way to achieve the same result, without the use of manipulation or force! Instead of "How can I get?" ask "What can I give?" Here's an example: "What can I give my daughter in order to help her do her homework more easily?" Does she need a calmer environment? A snack? a back rub? You to sit and help her do her homework and explain the concepts again? Help researching? A new pencil? "What can I give?" assumes that the problem isn't a lack of force, but a lack of resources. Our core philosophy, and the basis of Emotional Resource Theory, states that people do the best they can with the emotional capacity they have. If they aren't doing a great job, its because they are missing one or more resources, not because they are being a willfully defiant mastermind. And if they are being a willfully defiant mastermind, they are doing THAT because they are lacking one or more resources and cannot think of any other way to change their situation. How to help someone out of Defense Mode and give them the right resources is well beyond the scope of this article, but it is something that we cover fully in our 2 day live workshops. You can see upcoming dates & topics here. Finally, I'd love to hear your thoughts! Leave a comment and share your story. I read all comments posted here
Here's what to do if your child is isolating in their room, and refusing to participate in life.