As a parent, I always thought I did a decent job. I helped their mother house them, clothe them and feed them practically every day. But now, I know, it’s only dumb luck that my kids managed to become relatively healthy, happy well-adjusted adults. Except for that one kid who’s a Pittsburgh Steelers fan
This realization came to me when I stumbled upon a child raising blog the other day that explained how a modern parent should convince their kids to do what they’re asked.
”Let’s say your kids are playing in a snow bank and not listening to your repeated pleas to get in the car so you can drive them to school,” a child psychologist quoted in the blog posts. “Connect with your kids using empathy. Say, ‘Wow, you guys are having so much fun in that snow aren’t you? It’s so great that it’s warm enough to be outside. I get it. I want to play outside, too.’ ” This tactic works, she explains, because, “We can’t really control kids but we can influence them and they’re only open to influence if they feel the connection.”
“Coach them. Ask them why they think you need them to get in the car. Yup, it’s time for school. If you need to, get on their level — right in their face — and look them in the eye. Say, ‘Look at me, I need your attention.’ ”
Which shows what a lousy parent I really was. Because my explanation would have been, “Get in the car. Now!”
No repeated pleas. No connection. No empathy. Only me making it clear that I had no interest in playing in the snow bank with them and if they didn’t get into the car in the next three seconds I’d go back into the house and when they were done having fun in the snow they could just walk to school, get there late and wind up getting detention.
Admittedly, I wasn’t the most patient of parents. I had neither the time nor the interest in turning every situation into a debate about why it was a good idea to get out of the snowbank and into the car. Like my stepfather and his father before him, I came from the “tell, don’t ask” school of parenting.
Having helped to raise four kids doesn’t make me an expert, of course. So maybe you’ll be a better parent if you follow that child psychologist’s 83 words of advice the next time your kids don’t listen to your repeated pleas to stop playing in the snow and get into the car.
Or you could just save 77 words with a simple:
“Because I said so, that’s why.”
Contact this columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org