Saturday, March 7, 2009

How to say "no" to the child

IMAGINEImage by Life through Tawni's Eyes via Flickr

The surprisingly simple giant step we can all take toward emotional maturity
In "The Terrible Two's: Patterned for Life," my wife N'omi points out that our lifelong behavior patterns are determined early in childhood. During the "terrible two's," a child will discover the word "no." So the parents must get to "no" before the child does.

The horrible truth is: If parents don't know how to say "no" to the child--and in a way that doesn't frustrate him, but instead offers creative alternatives and rewards, as well as a definite requirement of obedience--a war of wills is on the horizon.

A child raised without this training of his or her will is headed for a life of anger, frustration, and loneliness. Why? Because if the parents don't lovingly present this lesson to the child, life will harshly present it to them as they become adults.

Oddly, this is much the same scenario that develops when a child is repressed and punished arbitrarily and in anger, rather than according to well-understood guidelines.

But forcing a child to parent herself or himself is simply another form of child abuse, and results in an angry, frustrated, and lonely child.

I know because I was that child, and I see children suffering like I did everywhere I go.

Current child-raising trends exalt feelings, and encourage their untrammeled expression regardless of who they hurt. Children raised this way learn that the feelings of others are unimportant, and that their own feelings are what rule the world.

They are not taught to work on their character, or to think of others, or even of their own long-term desires or goals. So they become permanently subject to babyish impulses, and seldom develop the strength of character to rise above them.

Neither a Hero nor a Coach can afford such a life. Living by our feelings is, at best, destructive to self and others. Our employer, our clients, our society all rely on us to make considered decisions, informed by facts, experience, and intuition. Feelings have a place in our lives--but that place can't be the driver's seat!

How can you help your Hero or your Coach when you see them caught up in their feelings? And how can you help colleagues, subordinates, and superiors when you see them caught up in their feelings?

First of all, don't react; that is, don't allow your behavior to be determined by, and thus feed into, their feelings. Take a deep breath, and consider the situation. Can you calm or comfort the person? Before you can address the issues at hand, you have to bring them back to responsible behavior.

Another way to do this is to speak to them in their love language, if you know what it is. If you don't, try all five! (But unless you are sure their love language is touch, don't try to touch them; it won't calm them, and could have the opposite effect.)
The main duty of parents is to teach children to live above their feelings - not to suppress them, but not to be ruled by them. And parents can only do this if they have learned this listen. If you haven't - that's your homework assignment! :-)
Love and blessings,

an email from Joel Orr.
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