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Respect wins, not demands and commands

By Sophie Barcant, BA (Psyc), B.ED, Trainer, Facilitator, Parenting Coach/Consultant

“Beware! You will have to repeat!” Are you threatening your kids, saying they may have to stay down and repeat their class?

We parents try every possible way to motivate our children—we are so eager and concerned to see them obey and succeed. We preach, rant, and threaten, hoping that our words will help them to see the consequences of their actions or inactions.

Threats work with certain people for certain things at certain times, but at a cost.

Empty threats used with older children lead to disrespect. It’s like crying wolf. They say to themselves, “Oh my mother/father doesn’t mean what they say, they say that all the time but never follow through. They are just fussing”.

They see our inability to keep our word and this leads to distrust and disrespect. They also see threats as an attempt to control them and this leads to power struggles and rebelliousness. Bonds are thus broken in the parent-child relationship.

Threats lose power when they no longer matter to the child especially when they are bigger and more independent.

According to Norendra Giodani from WOWparenting.com when we continue to threaten our kids, one day, sooner or later, kids will turn around and say “Do what you want, I am not going to listen to you.”

That day, you have lost the special bond with your child, maybe forever.

Threats do scare others, especially younger children into compliance, but the compliance is usually short term. Threats are damaging. Distrust, disrespect, self-doubt, fear of rejection and abandonment result….ingredients for failed relationships.

In her article ‘Teaching Through Love Instead of Fear’, Pam Leo states:

“Many parents see a child’s uncooperative behaviour as a challenge to their authority. Once we understand that uncooperative behaviour is usually caused by a child’s unmet need or an adult’s unrealistic expectation, we don’t have to take the behaviour so personally. Parents and children often have different needs. Sometimes our needs or schedules conflict with our children’s needs.”

Threats are external negative motivators. We want people to be intrinsically motivated: to do the right thing because they want to, because they see the benefit for the greater good.

Threatening that they will have to stay down and repeat their school year can add a lot of unnecessary pressure to your child. They are anxious enough about their struggle to focus on remote learning far less to have to worry now about losing parental acceptance and being separated from their friends and not moving up.

Instead, let’s talk to our children with respect. This builds their self-esteem and as Pam Leo says, “The bond or connection parents have with their children is their most powerful parenting “tool”.

When children’s needs are met and nothing is hurting them they are usually delightful to be with. Whenever a child responds negatively to a reasonable request, we need to look for the conflicting need.

In essence, we need to give up on trying to ‘control’ our children. Rather, let’s build relationships of understanding. Explain the concerns, the errors, the practices necessary and set boundaries.

Remember to use the science of control by offering choices. Look back on previous articles for details on how to do this. https://catholictt.org/index.php/with-parents-in-mind.

Let’s have respectful conversations rather than demands and commands. Respect, don’t threaten. This approach is a win-win one. Everyone loses when we threaten and quarrel. It hurts all concerned and extends beyond.

Children growing up threatened can turn out to be bullies and manipulators of others. A strong bond is created over time when parents lovingly and consistently meet a child’s early needs.

Follow Sophie’s parenting approaches drawn from Love and Logic and Positive Discipline on www.sophiesparentingsupport.com, FB and Instagram. For personal coaching, contact:sophiebarcant@gmail.com

Here are creative alternatives to motivate them:

  • Invite them to beat the clock, time themselves to complete an exercise in a given time and to compete against themselves the next time they do it.
  • Think outside the box. Is there a playful way to get it done? Can they play musical rooms? Going to different rooms to do their various online classes? How about different homes, rotate with three peers?
  • Remind them how good it feels to do their work well. This good proud feeling becomes the intrinsic motivator.
  • And remind the teens that their future is in their hands, not yours. Help them see the big picture: their choice to study now will enable them to have more options later when deciding on tertiary training and education. Less academic achievement at secondary school level means fewer options down the road, the choice is theirs.
  • Appeal to the nobility of your child.
  • Ask them how together you can make the work interesting. Brainstorm as to what they need to make the learning exciting or more interesting. They are intelligent and they know themselves.
  • Mention how their friends are coping well, this could motivate them to want to keep up—positive peer pressure.
  • Younger children need positive reinforcement so offering stickers, or points for a reward on a motivation chart can be extremely effective motivators.
  • Appreciation, rewards/recognition, catching children doing things right are vital. We get more of the behaviour we desire when we recognise it. Ignoring efforts and achievements can sometimes be demotivating for certain people, although this is essentially an external motivator. For more look at https://childmind.org/article/how-to-help-your-child-get-motivated-in-school/