Yesterday I talked about the concept of how our society uses the term “Listen” with our kids. In our home, we use ‘listen’ differently than what I have observed in the majority of families with whom I’ve come into contact. In our home, when one of us says ‘listen’, what is actually being said is, “Please stop a moment, I want to share my heart, the thoughts that are really big in my mind right now. Please, look at me, hear me with your ears, and hear me with your heart. I want to connect. I want your acknowledgement. I am needing your validation of my feelings and thoughts at this moment/on this topic. And once I finish sharing my thoughts, I want to receive your response and share a conversation about this…”.
So, you won’t hear us say “Listen to me” unless it’s important and we expect to have an in depth conversation (kid to adult, kid to kid, adult to adult). Further, the “listen to me” aspect will be with a “please” because it is a request. Always.
In limited instances however, you will hear one of us say, “Please do/don’t _____________; I expect you to comply/expect your compliance.” Then, immediately following (or as soon as possible), we will provide a concise explanation for the expectation if it is beneficial or requested.
When a communication is delivered in our home without the “expectation of compliance” as a part of the entire message, everyone knows that a request is being communicated. Everyone also knows they have the right to deny any request, or grant any request. This is universal; there is no double standard where the parent can deny a request but the child can’t, for instance.
Do we always interact with this concept being the underlying and motivating factor? Are we explicitly consistent? No. We (big people and little people) screw it up sometimes. Humans ability to use manipulation is uncanny… And we are not perfect, nor do we intend to be. However, each person (and dog) in our home knows deep within them the value we hold for one another, as well as the value of consistency and forthrightness. We each know that it does not feel good to be on the receiving end of manipulation, and it is our responsibility to make the conscious choice to not allow ourselves to be in the position of delivering an attempt at manipulation.
Sometimes we fail. When that happens, acknowledgement is what makes the difference.. That acknowledgement begins as an internal acceptance of something that requires adjustment, followed by that same awareness being communicated outwardly to all involved.
When compliance is expected, the communication is never delivered as a request, it is always delivered as a command, and phrased in the format the child is accustomed to.
The command is always communicated with the expectation of compliance as a part of the entire communication. The “comply” aspect is not one that is resorted to (or tacked on) in the event the child doesn’t give the adult what is expected/wanted. This is crucial.
Our communication doesn’t look like this –
Kid, I want you to do/not do something.
Kid hesitates.. doesn’t choose to do as the communication indicates.
Ok Kid, since you didn’t decide to give me what I want, I’m going to now say, “comply”.
This sort of approach is unfair and does not uphold the child. Why? Because the adult is retaining an upper hand that they perceive they have due to their size/age/status/etc. By phrasing as a request what is actually a command for which compliance is expected, they are being manipulative.
When the child, who interprets the communication as a request (because it wasn’t clearly delivered as a requirement initially), and chooses to deny it (for whatever their reason), is then forced to accept that the autonomy (self-governing) and right to choose he believed was his was actually never there, he can experience everything from confusion, to betrayal, to a much decreased sense of self. When the adult uses manipulation and then resorts to dominance to force compliance, they are stripping their child of his autonomy. It’s insulting and demeaning, and undermines the child’s internal reasoning and sense of self.
That said, there are instances when the adult cannot fully articulate the entire phrase, including something along the lines of “compliance is expected”. These sort of instances might be when walking in the city and or parking lot and the child is suddenly in some sort of danger. In times like this, the adult often cannot sputter out much more than a “STOP” (or other imperative) in time to prevent harm, and the child’s safety depends on his compliance. I’ll discuss this situation in a separate post. ~>
In the mean time, what scenarios can you recall when you and your child successfully interacted on an almost innate/intuitive level – where they sensed your dire need for their compliance, and they granted it (whether threat of physical or emotional harm – which is equally valuable). Please share your experiences.