Monday, April 5, 2010

Commands VS Requests

For a long time, I've tried to figure out a way to balance my need to have my children obey me when I need them to, and my need to allow them to question things when it is okay to do so.

I want my children to learn to think independently.  I do not want them to be dependent on my, or anyone else, for the rest of their lives, after all.  I prefer that they be able to ask questions and make reasonable decisions for themselves.  The only way to teach them to do this is to allow them to ask questions.  Those questions will be answered, and if there is some logical reason that they can then evince as to why my answers are wrong, then the conversation must continue.  Consider the following circumstance:

I ask my children to complete their math before doing any other schoolwork.

Gabriel asks why.

I explain, "We don't have a lot of time to spend on schoolwork today.  As you're ahead in all other subjects, I prefer that you be sure to finish math."

If Gabriel can figure out a more pressing concern (IE "This economics book is due back at the library today.  Since it has holds on it, we cannot renew it.  Also, we are going to the library this afternoon.  I think I should be sure to finish this book, first.") then the conversation should continue, or I should change my request.  In this case, I would agree with him, and that would be the end.

However, there are those times when I need or want my children to obey me without question or argument.  When we are in a hurry, I need my children to put on their shoes without asking why.  When we are in a parking lot and I see a car coming, I need my children to stop or move out of the way without asking why.

Up until now, I have had a difficult time figuring out how to manage these two need.  Then, I had an wow-you're-stupid ah-ha moment.  I can use commands and requests.  So long as I don't use them interchangeably, this should work, although it will take some training on all our parts.  So, if the matter is something my children can question, I will phrase it as a request.  If it is something that needs to be obeyed without question, I will phrase it as a command.  This will take a LOT of training on my part, since I tend to phrase everything as a polite command- "Please, take out the trash." for instance, could be phrased as, "Will you please take out the trash?"  This could become a learning moment.  For, if the child wanted to know why, we could discuss the reasons we all do chores, the benefits of not having trash all over the house, and why I am not going to be the one taking out the trash.

I am not giving my children the option of saying no.  I am giving them the option of finding out the reasons behind my commands, and, if they have a logical argument against those reasons, the opportunity to debate said reasons.

Hopefully, this will work.  We shall see how it goes.  Parenting is a continuing-ed process, and ever changing.  I have very few desires for my children, but they are big ones.  I want my children to love learning.  I want my children to know how to learn.  I want my children to be respectful.  I want my children to be polite (hence the reason they will not be allowed to say no).  I want my children to be self-sufficient.  I want my children to be independent.  I want my children to be able to think logically.  Basically, I want my children to be men when they are done growing up.  When these desires are not being met, my parenting tactics must change.  As children grow into teens, and then adults, their parenting needs change.  So, then, my parenting must grow with them.

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