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Zeke’s Parenting Journey (One Size Fits All?)


Thanks for joining me.

I thought today that I would share a short story about Zeke and his way of relating to his children and then take a closer look. I think we discover that some things don’t just apply to our children. Let’s hear the story and then dig in a little.

Finding Balance:

Zeke had been a father for years, and he felt he had done some things right, but he was starting to struggle now that his children had grown into teenagers. His friend listened intently as Zeke shared stories of his many parenting experiences.

Zeke told of the times his children had pushed the boundaries and how it had mostly resulted in negative outcomes. Of course, he also shared stories of how he had attempted to

address their behavior in the moment. He recalled times he had allowed natural consequences to play out, and also times when he had taken a more punitive approach.

As he continued to talk, Zeke realized that most of the discipline he had used in the past had been ineffective. His friend agreed that a different approach was needed, but he wasn’t sure what would be best. After considering the situation carefully, Zeke decided that a balance of rewards and consequences might be the best option.

He figured that rewards would motivate the kids to cooperate with his rules, and that consequences would teach them to take responsibility for their behavior. He also hoped that by taking the time to explain the reasons behind his rules, his children would eventually come to understand why following them was important.

With new strategies in mind, Zeke headed home to give the plan a try. That night, all of his children were on their best behavior and seemed much more willing to cooperate. Zeke was pleased with the outcome and knew that his new approach had been a success.

From then on, Zeke swore by positive reinforcement and

consequences when it came to disciplining his children and raising them to be responsible, respectful young adults.

Stop to Consider

It sure sounds like Zeke is Giving serious thought to his approach to being a parent. It also sounds like he has made some changes that are over-due. But let’s take a closer look.

His old approach had been allowing natural consequences to play out or taking a more punitive approach. That sounds like wait and see or punish to me.

His new approach, rewards and consequences, does add a new element. His former “punitive approach” and the new “consequences” sound like the same approach to me, but “rewards” is new. Along with punishing his children when they take a miss-step, he now rewards them when they behave as he expects — an over-due improvement for sure.

Of course his new approach is also known as the “carrot and stick” approach. Zeke has upped his game, but not by much. Influencing the behavior of people in general and children in particular is a lot more complex and our options go far beyond carrots and sticks.

Why should children pay attention to anything we say or tell them?

Stop a second to think about what your first reaction was to the question. For most people, “Because I am the parent” or “Because I am the adult” or some variation on the theme comes to mind.

Both of these answers are reasonable and appropriate. What I want to point out here is that there are several reasons why your children should listen to what you say. It will be helpful for you to think about and understand which reason is operating when you want your children to listen, to pay attention, to accept what you are saying to them or telling them.

Your being clear about why you think they should pay attention will help them be clear about why they should pay attention this time. There is an additional payoff for you. When you are at work or in other situations where you want people to pay attention to you, being clear in your own mind about why they should pay attention will make it more likely that they will accept you and what you are saying.

Until you get comfortable knowing why you think your child or anyone else should listen to what you say, it will help to stop a second to be clear with your self before saying anything where you expect some action or response from the other person. Give it a try. You may be surprised to see how much difference it makes.

Okay, here we go.

Title Authority: Children are told that they should or should not do things because you – their parent – said so. Your title – parent – gives you the right to tell them what to do or what not to do.

Reward/Punishment Authority: If they submit to or go along with what you want or say, you will reward them in some positive way. If they do not, you will punish them.

Referent Authority: You present to them ideas of right and wrong, good and bad, and encourage them to conform to these standards. Sometimes this takes the form of encouraging certain behavior because this is “what we do” in our family or is consistent with what our family believes.

The Voice of Experience: You base your demands, expectations, and suggestions on your personal experience with the same or similar situation. “When I was young,…” is a typical intro to the voice of experience. Another similar approach starts with, “When you have lived as long as I have, you will…” The idea is that your experience takes precedence over the perceptions and judgments of the young person.

Information Authority: Your authority is based on your having knowledge or information that the young person does not possess. This authority approach is also in operation when you encourage the young person to read the instructions, talk with someone who knows about that sort of thing, or go to the library to find more information. The same authority approach is being used when you encourage the young person to check with his teacher, talk to a professional to learn the facts, or to wait awhile until you or the young person can find out more about the situation.

Control of Resources and Opportunities: This approach is ordinarily being used when youngsters are given allowances, when privileges are given or withheld, when special arrangements are made for things like lessons or the opportunity to participate in special events, or when you are trying to influence the behavior of the young person by controlling resources or opportunities. This naturally includes things like driving privileges, using the family car, grounding the young person, sending young children to bed early, and so on.

Acceptance/Rejection Authority: This approach is used far more than many parents realize. Acceptance is being given anytime you give the young person a special hug, smile at her, say nice things either to the young person or to other people about the youngster, or in some way reflect your approval and affirmation. Also, acceptance authority is being used when you reflect a continuing caring and love for the young person even when she gets into trouble, does something of which you disapprove, or behaves outside of the boundaries of family norms and expectations. Conversely, you are rejecting the young person when you become angry with her, send her to her room, do not talk to her or give the youngster the “cold shoulder,” or in other ways let the young person know that you are displeased, do not feel very good about her right now, or are unhappy with the young person. An important part of this authority approach is to devote the time and sensitivity required to know when in fact you are using it.

There is only one point here. With other people and especially with our children, we can and should do a lot better than carrots and sticks. Anything less is disrespectful to to our children and to ourselves as well.

Now you know so there you go.

For now, be well, do well and do something nice for someone. He or she will appreciate it and you both will have a better day.