Parenting that is based on a deep relationship of connection, communication and collaboration will always be more powerful, stable and resilient than relationships based on authority and control.
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The old parenting model that has been passed down throughout generations uses power, threats, punishment and consequences to modify behaviour of children to fit into expectations decided on by the parent. This is doomed to fail!
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I clearly remember the day that I realized I could take any punishment my parents could dish out and I would still do whatever I wanted. That was the day they lost their influence over me and, in a way, our relationship as well.
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When we try to restrict and control our children the likely result is that they will try and be more sneaky the next time they want to do something, rather than trust ua and come to us.
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When we say NO from a place of authority we aren’t treating them as human beings with feelings, needs and autonomy. Part of the problem with saying a hard NO is that it doesn’t take their very real needs into account. Often our children’s desire for autonomy will overrule their willingness to be obedient. This is when we get resistance and rebellion.
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The other option is that their sense of their power and free will gets crushed and they capitulate to our demands. This is also not desirable as they lose a part of who they are when this happens.
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Resistance and Compliance are two sides of the same coin. Neither are authentic expressions of their being. Neither are respect nor are they thinking and making well considered decisions.
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This is why a relationship based on communication, connection and collaboration is more stable and more resilient. Instead of saying NO, let’s look into what their needs are, let’s share what ours are and find out how we both can feel satisfied. This is collaboration, this is co-problem solving. When we engage them this way kids feel heard, they feel part of the decision making process, they feel their needs are important and valued.
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When looking at the parent-child relationship I talk about three main areas that we can focus on with our kids. They are Model, Guide and Friend. I will be writing much more about this in the near future.
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MODEL:
We know from experience, and I’m sure you have observed this, that kids learn way more from what we do and who we are than from anything we say.
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This means that if we use control and force to make them behave in ways that we want them to, this is what they learn human relationships are about, and this is what they will reflect back to us.
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If however, we treat them with respect and work together to try and make sure everybody’s needs are met, then this is what they learn human relationships are about.
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This is why the modeling is so important, because if we model to them respect and kindness, they will naturally learn to model that back to us. Even if we aren’t always able to meet everyone’s needs, and of course we won’t always be able to, the consistent effort is what they will see. I often say that parents are sacred mirrors and that’s why we have this great opportunity to reflect the deepest and most profound aspects of human nature and relationship.
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The hard part, of course, is that this requires us to reflect upon ourselves. We have to be continuously asking, are we engaging with them in a way that reflects how we want them to engage with us? This is not a very popular thing because it requires a lot of change, a lot of growth and a lot of self-evaluation.
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GUIDE:
The second relationship is guide. We might encounter a guide perhaps when we’re hiking or we’re doing some rock climbing. The guide is the person who has been there before and shares with us their experience. They show us where it’s safe to put our feet, where the slippery spots are and where the danger areas are. They are primarily concerned with imparting the knowledge that will help keep us safe so that we can have the highest quality experience possible.
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If we are to be our children’s guides, it makes sense for us to inspire them to trust our guidance. If they don’t trust our guidance, then it’s very likely they will not listen to it. This means that when we guide them their consistent experience is that their lives are better for it, they feel good about the experience and they feel closer to us as a result. They feel safe, seen and accepted. It is very much the same with adults, if you don’t trust the person who’s guiding you, you’re going to have a hard time listening to what they say.
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This is why guiding from a place of empathy, kindness, understanding, patience and connection is always going to be more effective. As soon as we lose their trust in our guidance we either lose our influence or we have to use force, which has a limited lifespan and degrades our relationship with them.
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The guide also teaches important principles like collaboration and problem solving. For example if kids want to do something and we don’t want them to, instead of saying NO, it will be more effective to see if there’s a way we can say yes, even if it means being creative together and changing it to something a little bit different that works for everyone. Again it is the effort to turn a NO into a YES that helps children trust our intentions and keep coming to us.
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When this relationship is well established they will be much more willing to go along with the alternate idea which also takes our needs into account. This is what guiding is all about.
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FRIENDSHIP:
The friendship aspect is really important because it is the foundation of the other relationships. A lot of the time we hear parents say, “I’m not your friend, I’m your parent.” The problem with that is we’re trying to set up an authoritative relationship which definitely degrades over time.
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One of my sayings is:
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“Coercive influence decreases over time.
Relational influence increases over time.”
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The friendship aspect is the one that demonstrates to them that we see them as human beings, that we hold their feelings and needs as equally important as ours. It is showing them that we value their experience and their wisdom as much as we want them to value ours.
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It’s the mutuality that inspires kids to be more open to us. When the teaching/guiding/power flows all one way or mostly one way, they do not feel a respect for their humanity. They will naturally set up protective patterns and close themselves from us, which is the opposite of what we want.
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Friendship doesn’t mean “just do whatever you want”. We have the Guide and Model relationships to counteract that. Any one of these three relationships on their own might not be enough to create the kind of stable working relationship, living relationship and loving relationship that we want with our kids.
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Putting them all together however, creates a beautiful harmonious system that encourages everyone to work together, cooperate and care about each other’s needs.

Coercive influence decreases over time. Relational influence increases over time.

3 thoughts on “Coercive influence decreases over time. Relational influence increases over time.

  • August 24, 2019 at 9:09 pm
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    I love this! I am practicing this everyday but can’t hear your words and ideas enough. The knee jerk override of coercion is so, so, so entrenched in all of us and yet, my daughter is showing me the right way by how she reacts. She shows me when I am walking over her needs and wants. She gets angry and pulls away from me and then I know, I have pushed her away with my fear and control. Thank you Vivek, this mindset is like food for me, it feeds my deepest knowing and has helped my daughter and I become closer and closer.

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  • September 6, 2019 at 12:59 am
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    I needed to read this today, Vivek. After a week-long visit with my mother in law and seeing the grief of a loss of connection between my beloved husband and his mother, which my husband describes very much like you did, and feeling judged and criticized for trying to follow a different path with our child, these words were a balm for my soul. Thank you.

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