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Respecting Rules by Removing the 'Do as I Say, Not as I Do' Mentality
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In the last section, we discussed Building Assertive Parent-Child Communication. This has included reacting to a child’s behavior, why the child’s behavior affects you this way and what you want to change.
Do you have a client whose child doesn’t respect set rules? Does the client respect the rules set?
In this section, we will discuss Respect for Rules. Respect for Rules will include the following three topics, "Do as I Say, Not as I Do" Mentality, Exceptions and Rationalization. As you listen, think of how you might respond in a similar situation.
Have you found... as I have, that behavior communicates as powerfully and as subtly as words do?
Bruce, age 40, came to me about his 13-year-old son, Chad. Bruce stated, "Chad is always complaining about how nothing is fair. I think he’s started rebelling because of it, too. If Chad is going over to a friend’s house, I ask him to call me when he gets there, so I know he got there safely. What does he do? He ignores me and doesn’t do it. Then, I swear he ties up the phone on purpose so no one else can make calls or use the internet! I’ve got to check my e-mail for business! What do you do about a kid who’s purposely disobeying just to be a smart aleck?"
How might you have responded?
I asked, "Do you ever call home to tell your family that you’ve arrived safely, for example, if you go on a business trip?" Bruce stated, "No, not really…if I did that for every business trip, my family would be sick of it!" I asked, "About how long in one setting do you spend on the internet, when you use it?" Bruce responded, "Time goes so fast when you’re on a computer! I swear…fifteen minutes can turn into 3 hours so fast!"
3 Topics Regarding Respect for Rules
♦ Topic #1 - "Do as I Say, Not as I Do" Mentality
It has been my experience that in general, parents and adults routinely break the rules and violate the boundaries they want their children to respect. Many parents seem to have a "Do as I say, not as I do mentality." I explained that if Bruce wanted to take the powerful potential of Chad’s development seriously, he might want to be more aware of when he himself disrespected the very rules that he wanted to support. The very fact that expressions such as ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ exist reminds of how easily everyday language can be ignored for the example of behavior.
♦ Topic #2 - Exceptions
Bruce stated, "Ok, maybe I’m not perfect. But exceptions are inevitable! Say I want to teach my kids about stop lights. I might have to run a red light if I’m on my way to the hospital with an emergency!"
What might you have said?
I stated, "Exceptions are about contrast. Maybe exceptions aren’t serious in themselves, but the overall effect can define a pattern of values. In my experience, it is often the everyday pattern of such attitudes and behaviors that determines the foundational set of family values, rather than what a parent says. So, if you don’t routinely speed up to just barely make it through yellow lights, and if you don’t routinely roll through stop signs, Chad will probably understand if you need to drive through a red light on your way to the emergency room with a critically injured family member. The consistency, continuity and predictability with which you maintain everyday rules creates the foundational set of values that remains intact in the face of the necessary exception. Obviously, life demands exceptions."
It has been my experience that parenting becomes difficult not because of the exceptions, but because parents might not have laid an everyday foundation that can withstand the exception.
♦ Topic #3 - Rationalization
Even if Bruce agreed with what I said, he might have rationalized an exception to the rule that day. What Bruce needed to do, in order to break the "no everyday exceptions" rule, was to come up with a perfectly logical-sounding reason why that exception ought to be allowed. Within a very narrow context, such exceptions can be logical.
However, I felt that if Bruce used rationalizations to break rules and violate boundaries, he might be just as likely to use rationalizations to create rules and boundaries for the convenience of the moment. It would, of course, take a lot of effort and concentration to maintain the kind of consistency that helps to build the foundation of values and character that Bruce wanted for Chad.
But, by not taking these things seriously, Bruce was building much more than that. By not throwing wrenches into the works of Chad’s development, Bruce could radically decrease the likelihood that Chad would develop those cognitive-behavioral styles that are routinely identified, diagnosed, labeled, mis-educated and mistreated.
Bruce stated, "So…you’re saying that if I turn my behavior around, my kid will turn his behavior around too?" I stated, "First, he might respect you more. He might see that you really mean what you say when you ask certain things of him, like calling when he gets to his friend’s house. Then he might start to adopt those behaviors himself."
Do you agree?
Do you have a Bruce... whose child doesn’t respect the rules he or she has set? Does your Bruce respect his or her own rules? Might he or she benefit from hearing this section?
In this section, we have discussed Respect for Rules. This has included "Do as I Say, Not as I Do" Mentality, Exceptions and Rationalization.
What are 3 parental behaviors that often lead to decreased respect for rules in children?
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