Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Listen and Obey

"Listen and Obey."
It's a phrase we use a lot in our household.

I know that some parents would find this phrase to be horribly demeaning to children. Parenting is about negotiating with your child, reasoning with them until you can come to an agreement on what should happen. Or you should play through the situation until your goal is achieved. 

I think that's a bunch of malarkey. You don't have time to negotiate and play when your child is running towards a busy city street. You don't always have the chance to reason with them when they're doing something unsafe. Sometimes, you just need to be able to utter a command and know that your child knows they're supposed to respond. I'm not saying we have a 100% success rate for compliance, but we're usually above 90%, which I think is pretty good. Children don't know which commands are keeping them intact vs. keeping the china cabinet intact. It's not their job to stop and try to figure it out. They just need to listen. Their lives and my sanity depend on it. 

As the girls can recite, my words are to "teach them and keep them safe". So I used the newspaper this morning as a teachable moment. There were a lot of people that suffered in the hurricane, despite preparing as well as they could. I have nothing but sympathy for those folks. I've lived through roof-ripping hurricanes, and they're terrifying. I can imagine that the recovery effort is overwhelming. But there were a lot of people who suffered because they decided not to evacuate when they should have. They were given an order, but they chose not to obey.
Now, I'm not saying we should all be automatons that follow every recommendation of our government without questioning them. No, reason is important. But when all of the weather reports and emergency warnings tell you that 90mph winds and 10+ feet of water are coming to wipe away your home, it seems wise to evacuate. Especially if you aren't savvy in the areas of meteorology, civil engineering, and hydrology. They weren't interrupting your weekend TV programs for the fun of it. No, they were trying to keep you from getting killed. 

I wonder, as I see more people subscribe to the "negotiate until agreement" method of parenting, if this phenomenon will get worse in the future. If a good chunk of our society believes that the rules don't really apply to them (especially if they don't like the rule or recommendation), how will we stay safe? How will we learn without having to learn the hard way?

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