Cooperation or Obedience?
NOTE: This piece is written from the Dad’s perspective.
It can just as appropriately be read from the Mom’s perspective.
If you as a parent are confident enough, you might speak to your child along the following lines – at any time, really, but especially during the You-and-Me Dialogue, when you have a conversation with the child about how the two of you treat each other.
“My strongest desire is for you to be growing as a person, to be responsible, caring, and cooperative.
And if you are growing as a person, you will be doing things like speaking honestly, showing respect for others, cooperating with others, listening to others, caring about others as well as yourself, doing what you say you will do, making responsible decisions, giving an accounting for your decisions and behavior, questioning your own motives as to selfishness, and giving evidence of your belief in the Golden Rule. You will be treating others as you wish to be treated.
“And I’ll be seeing all of that in you. In how you talk to your parents and your brothers and sisters, to your friends, to your teachers, and to everybody else. I’ll be seeing how you deal with all of us day-to-day. I’ll be seeing you doing your work conscientiously. I’ll be seeing you–in one way or another–thinking through your values and maybe even questioning some of your ideas or assumptions. I’ll be seeing you act with self-discipline. I’ll be very proud of you.
“Doesn’t it make sense that I would much prefer to see you doing all those good things, instead of just being obedient, and bending your will to my will because you are afraid of a negative consequence?
“I hope you don’t think that I, as a father who loves you and wants the best for you, prefers to inflate my own ego with a sense of power over you rather than lending you a hand in becoming the best person you can be. I hope you don’t think that I would prefer to see you in pain–like being punished or being afraid of some punishment–rather than see you joyful, and happy, and good about yourself. Which of these–your cooperation or your obedience–do you think makes me feel better about you? And better about myself as a father?
“Personally, I hope you understand how it is that I really want your cooperation with me and your mom, rather than your obedience. And I would hope that you, too, see voluntary, caring cooperation as much better for you than obedience could ever be.
“Essentially, I hope you can see this difference as being the difference between love and fear as the motivation for your behavior.
“So, honey, what do you think about all this? Which do you think is better: cooperation or obedience?”
3 Steps to Parent-Child Harmony is my book that describes in detail the differences between the Old School Parenting model and the New School Parenting model. Please see these links if you are interested in more information or wish to purchase.