The Corruption of Power

  1. Power corrupts.
  2. The most power over anyone that the average person will ever have is their power over their children.
  3. Liberty, voluntaryism is the antidote to corruption.
  4. Liberty is protected and defined by moral codes; the NAP.

Conclusion: In order for us to protect our children, we must recognize our inherent and vast power over them, and the potential for it to corrupt our treatment of them. By extending to them the protections of the NAP, of the right to be safe and secure in their bodies and property, and by having a standard to check and restrain our own temptations towards aggression, we ensure that they enjoy freedom to grow and learn in a safe and rationally consistent environment. Not only will this better protect them from future aggressors, and from becoming aggressive themselves, it is the valid, rational moral position. It is the right thing to do.

Better educated parents have children who are more relaxed, outgoing and explorative


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Studies like this, which tell us “it’s not just genetics” are always a relief. Actions you take today can shape your children’s personality.

Put it in writing!

Kids have a lot of requests:

“Will you take me to the circus?”
“Can I have this giant basket of candy?”
“Will you take me for horseback lessons?”

I used the above examples because they are difficult questions to answer. The circus is sixth months away, he can get a much better deal on chocolate in aisle 12, and you don’t even know if there are horseback lessons in your town! So how should we respond?

We know what will happen if we just say “No”: the child feels ignored, hurt, or angry, and will likely find a way to hurt us back (more whining, disrespect, etc).

We know what will happen if we say “Sure thing!”: we’ll be on the hook for some future obligation, or we’re giving the child sweets just to shut them up. That will also result in increased begging, whining, and scolding us if we have to break the promise. (Following the NAP means not breaking promises)

I hear a lot of parents try the following middle-ground approach:

“Maybe!”
“Someday!”
“I’ll think about it!”

Imagine being the child in this scenario. You ask for a handful of things everyday, and you’re constantly met with “Maybe!” (and a little half-smile), and then the adult just continues what she’s doing. I know when I was a kid hearing this, I knew exactly what my mom meant: “Not happening, leave me alone”. If you say “I’ll think about it” and you don’t think about it, you’re just lying, and kids aren’t dumb, they figure that out real quick!

One solution, which validates the child’s emotions, and respects their wishes, while simultaneously giving you space to continue what you’re doing and to consider the request when you’re not busy is to Write It Down.

I keep to-do lists, to-read lists, and a calendar among other things on my phone, where they are always handy. If you’re not in the habit of writing down your ideas, goals, to-dos, and commitments, drop what you’re doing and read Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen. It’s a game-changer for those of us who have trouble staying organized.

When a child has a request, and you don’t have an immediate answer, simply write it down (this applies to your inner child too, a topic for another time).

So when you’re in the grocery store, busy scanning ingredient lists and doing long division, and you hear:
“Will you take me to the circus?”
Try:
“Wow the circus, there’s an idea! Sounds fun, and I’d like to take you, but I have no idea when or where or if we’ll be available. Ill write it down so we can look into it later, sound good?”

And that’s it. You spent 10 seconds giving that answer and writing it down, and now the child can relax, you can relax. The circus is on The List, and you and the child know that The List is sacred. You WILL revisit it. Nothing comes off The List without being resolved in some way. (You could also simply snap a cell-phone picture of the box of candy, for example).

When and how you revisit the items on the list is up to you and your child to decide. I like to collect 3-5 ideas before spending a little time researching the cost and logistics of them all.

Negotiating is so important to a free and peaceful existence, and to NAP parenting. And one of the most essential pieces of information in any negotiation is knowing what the other party wants. Soon you’ll have a list of 30 or 100 things your child is excited about! And when it’s time for you to make your own requests of the child, you’ll have quick reference to some great bargaining chips.

You might also simply enjoy spending time dreaming about these things with your child, and find that sometimes thoroughly imagining the circus is a fine substitute for actually going. I know that I personally enjoy time spent fantasizing about new projects, products and experiences, and after thinking them over, I’m content with striking them off my list.

Or perhaps your child will enjoy sorting the items by price and by fun-ness and by educational value with you. Or tracking how these values might change. I always find it interesting when something SO important to them 3 days ago just isn’t anymore. It makes for great conversation about human impulses and value over time, etc.

This is one of the best tantrum-defusers I’ve ever used, with children and adults alike. Who wouldn’t like to hear:
“Tell me exactly what you want, I’m showing you how serious I’m taking it by writing it down, and I PROMISE we’ll revisit it soon when I have more information”

Always say “please”!

In my early years of working in a middle school in the rough part of town, my colleagues and I did a lot of de-briefing. Every day there was a new slew of problems, and we often felt like we were “losing” the fight for these kids attention and respect.

I complained one day that I couldn’t even get my kids to sit down, let alone read or do anything else on the curriculum. I knew a lot of tricks and tips for gaining a kid’s compliance, but I was out of ideas.

I asked a coworker “I’ve tried everything! What can I say to these kids to get them to sit and listen!”

And he said “Well, did you say please?”

I was struck dumb. I’m not a rude person. But, after honest reflection, I had to confess, “No, I guess I haven’t”. I was terribly ashamed. I defended myself by saying “C’mon, these kids don’t listen to a word I say. Why would ‘please’ be any different?”

And he hit me with another great point: “Maybe they won’t listen. But then when you ask a second time, you can at least say ‘look, I asked you nicely…'”

His advice worked, and when it didn’t, I at least had a more clear conscience about my tactics.

It all sounds so simple and obvious I’m slightly embarrassed to share that it was a major “Aha!” moment for me. But it’s a good example of how tiny shifts in attitude and word choice can make a world of difference for you and your kids.

Like I tell the children “‘please’, ‘thank you’, and ‘sorry’ don’t cost you anything”, so use them liberally!

 

“Yes, and…”

“Yes, And…”

These two words are some of the most important in our toolbox as NAP parents. Nobody likes hearing “No”. “No” doesn’t feel good, and children are operating in the realm of feelings more than your average adult.

See how using “Yes, and…” transforms the following conversations:

Child: “Mom can I have another scoop of ice cream?”
Parent: “No, one is plenty, and I already put it away.”

or

Child: “Mom can I have another scoop of ice cream?”
Parent: “Yes, and since you’re still hungry will you please have two more servings of vegetables first?”

 

Child: “Dad can I play on the tablet?”
Parent: “No, you’ve been playing too much today. Do your homework.”

or

Child: “Dad can I play on the tablet?”
Parent: “Yes, and what I need from you first is to finish your homework, and clear the table”

 

Child: “Mom can Joey come spend the night?”
Parent: “No, last time he was here you both fought, and wrestled, and destroyed things.”

or

Child: “Mom can Joey come spend the night?”
Parent: “Yes, and before you two run off and play, we need to sit down with him and his mother and get some agreements about the rules and standards here”

 

You’ll notice in each of these exchanges the parent is simply negotiating. “Yes you can have what you want, and here’s what I want in exchange”

Even if the child asks for something outrageous, the proverbial Pony for Christmas, do them the favor of imagining with them what you would need to allow that. “Yes you can have a pony! And a pony needs this much fencing, and food, and medical bills. When you’re willing and able to pay for 85% of that over the course of it’s life, I’m happy to consider it.”

Just remember, nearly everything is negotiable in this world. Your kid isn’t asking to put the cat in the blender here. Save your “no’s” for those moments, when they’re absolutely necessary. Say “no” rarely, and when you have to say “no”, do it only from a truly non-negotiable position. If you say “no” when you mean “maybe later”, your “no’s” will lose their power, and you’ll invite nagging and begging.

In a negotiation you can ask for whatever you want, you can be playful with it, and should walk away happy about it. I’m often pleasantly surprised when I have a high “asking price” and the child decides to meet it. “You want to go scuba diving half-way across the world you say? Here’s what I need: this level of performance with your school work, this amount of chores, and this type of behavior (defined in a contract), consistently, for this duration. I’ll also need help paying for it, so I’m willing to put up a certain amount, and I’ll need you to pay for the rest.”

You’re child will appreciate the sincerity and respect with which you handle their wishes.

And if you’re thinking “well then we’ll spend all day negotiating about everything under the sun!”, I would argue that children tend to ask for a million little things when they are accustomed to their requests NOT being taken seriously, or when they get an (often overturned) “No” 90% of the time. Someone who says “No” most of the time, and only occasionally, and unpredictably says “Yes”, is the equivalent of a human slot machine, and will invite the same treatment.

There’s a comfort and safety we all have in knowing that we’re dealing with someone who is willing to work with us and our wishes, and we have a natural tendency to be more easy-going and respectful of those types.