By Bob Lancer
You do not teach children gratitude by forcing them to say thank you. In fact, that is one way to teach children to suppress and deny their genuine feeling of thankfulness and appreciation out of a drive to express their free will. Do you want children to display good manners while secretly seething in resentment over having to perform like a trained seal? Or do you want to nurture your child’s natural feeling and open expressions of gratitude? This is an important question to ask yourself.
There are two basic approaches to parenting. Perhaps the most common one is to relate with the child as responsible for the angry, stressful ways that we parent the child. For instance: “I yell at my kids, it is because they do not listen; I lose my patience because they move too slowly; I lose my temper because they talk back disrespectfully.”
The other approach to parenting is to regard the child’s behavior as the product of how we parent. For instance: “If my child is not listening it is because of something I have been doing.”
The first approach makes the child responsible for the adult’s behavior. The second approach accepts responsibility for how the child behaves. This second approach leads to success because it leads the parent along a course of self-education and enlightenment as to how to produce the outcomes he wants with his child. The first approach not only leads the parent into ongoing failure, it leads the child in that same sad direction.
The fact is that the parent’s emotional states, what and how the parent speaks to the child, and what the parent does in response to the child, deeply impacts the child’s emotional states, how the child speaks, and how the child behaves. When a parent accepts responsibility for the way that he impacts his child, and begins closely observing that impact during their interactions, he soon begins seeing how to effectively lead that child into more responsible self-conduct. When the parent blames the child for the angry, stressful ways that he deals with the child, he overlooks how he contributes to the child’s behavior problems and to the child’s life-problems resulting from the child’s poor behavior.
Typically, parents who demonstrate this irresponsible form of relating with their child were themselves parented in a way that limited, impaired and perhaps even irrevocably damaged their capacity to reason beyond a very narrow range – a condition typically caused by a parent’s demand for blind obedience, enforced by a deeply intimidating threat, and made to feel responsible for their parent’s frightening conduct. They learned to survive through thoughtless obedience and thus failed to develop the faculty to think very deeply for themselves.
Adults who were raised in this way end up experiencing a condition of feeling “stuck” in life, because they fail to see how they place themselves in their constraining circumstances. In other words, they are as blind to how they produce their life-problems as they are to how they produce their child’s behavior problems.
They presume that their “lot in life” is not a reflection of their level of functioning, and that the unhappy condition of their mate and their children is just something that they need to tolerate. They fail to see the part they play in the production of that sorry life for themselves and for those who count on them.
They can see no way to improve things because they have unconsciously closed their minds to alternative possibilities. They often feel strong, even uncontrollable urges to become violent because their limited faculty for reason prevents them from even considering how they alone cause the powerless condition they unconsciously place themselves in.
They could start turning things around by more closely examining their own self-conduct in daily living, but this rarely happens because the extent of the damage done to their own childhood has programmed them to accept failure in all areas of life.