Fear vs Respect

Imagine, in a conversation, you have been asked about something you know the other person won't like. Let's say it's something the other person doesn't know you did. For each part of the question I'm about to ask, picture yourself in the situation and think of how you would feel, and what your first thought is.

The question is, when are you most likely to admit a mistake: when you're afraid of the other person? What about when you respect the  person you're talking to? How about in a situation where you feel respected by the other person, and you respect them in turn?

Most people are more likely to hide the truth if they're afraid. It's natural to want to protect yourself from negative consequences, regardless of whether you feel you did anything wrong.

In fact, if that other person is already angry, and you're afraid of their reaction, the last thing a sane person would do is say something that would make them turn their anger on you.

When you respect the other person, you're more likely to tell them the truth. You feel a certain level of trust in their self control, their sound judgment, and their ability to handle what you might say. It might be painful to admit something, but you have a sense that being dishonest would cost you more with this person than telling the truth, even if you lose some status in their eyes.

When you share mutual respect, you have no reason not to tell the other person the truth, because you know they won't judge you for what you did wrong. You won't feel shamed, because you know that they accept you for who you are. And if there's a problem, they'll try to help you solve it, learn from it, and move past it. You know before you tell them that you're already forgiven, and you know that whatever they tell you, you've already forgiven them. Both of you look for solutions, or just listen to and understand each other.

Ok, now imagine that person is more than twice your size, has complete control over what you do, and perhaps where and how you live, and whether there's food on your plate and peace in your life. The stakes for small children are so high, it's hard for parents and caregivers to put themselves in their place. It's so much more than just size.

Next time you need to know something from your child, keep this in mind. Just observe how the two of you interact: how do you sound? What expression is on  your child's face? What do they say, and what is the message underneath it? Most important: how do you react? With respect, trust and mutual problem solving?

Engaged parents, happy babies

Engaged parents, happy babies