Leading by example, not force

One of my early posts talked about Laura Bennett’s book, “Didn’t I Feed You Yesterday?”, all about her and her 5 boys and how they live their lives.  In case you missed it, it’s a great read.   I’m coming back to it tonight because at one point she talks about hyper-controlling parents who won’t let their kids near anything resembling junk food, fast food or processed sugar.   She tells a hilarious story about a woman who was so appalled that her estranged husband packed their childrens’ lunches with white bread and bologna that she was sure she could get full custody as a result.   She also talks about how she won’t allow those children to come to her house for a play date, because they have no restraint in the face of junk food and wind up curled in a corner after binging on sugar and chips.    Her own philosophy is that she “..assume(s ) that by the time they are grown, my boys will figure out that Krispy Kreme doughnuts are not the best choice for breakfast.”     I have a feeling that Laura is right.   Know why?  Because she leads her boys by example.  She has a healthy sense of humor, she eats well and takes care of herself.   I have no doubt that because she does not spend her days trying to control her boys and instead trusts them, they will live up to that trust and learn to make good decisions.

Most people do not trust their children.   Plain and simple.   They do not trust them to brush their teeth without supervision, to eat the right foods, to not burn the house down if left alone for 5 minutes.   They do not trust that they can learn without formal instruction, or without a parent enforced regimen.   They do not trust them to know when they are hot or cold or hungry or tired.   They treat them as though they are still infants, unable to walk or talk or express themselves in a way that can be understood.   They go trick-or-treating but then take most of the candy away, not trusting their child in the face of sugar.    And what if they did binge?   (and please, I’m not talking about kids with diabetes or other known health issues)   Well they might feel sick afterward.   Might even throw up.  But they’d learn a great lesson about what happens when you overdo it.  And probably next time around they wouldn’t choose to eat all the candy at once.   (Unless of course the parent allows the kid to binge and then makes them feel like dirt after they get sick.  Think of how much you enjoy someone saying, “I told you so!”   Your child is no different.)

Why are parent so afraid of losing control?  Of trusting their kids?  Teaching by force doesn’t work.   It doesn’t work in school and it doesn’t work at home.   Forcing someone to follow you also doesn’t make you a leader.  It makes you a dictator.   A leader is someone people want to follow and to emulate.   The only way you can be that for your kids is to lose the idea that they are wild, willful creatures who must be tamed and controlled.   Instead it is helpful to see them as people who need good examples to follow but who have minds and ideas of their own.   It is also helpful to realize that those ideas may be different from yours.  Isn’t it amazing that they came from you and yet are completely unique?

It should be.

One comment on “Leading by example, not force

  1. Miriam Brougher AKA Mom says:

    IE: Some Freshmen at college.

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