Surrender with dignity

Do you allow your child to surrender with dignity? When you give your child an instruction, which is the more likely scenario:

  • You stand over your child with the expectation that he will not comply.
  • You walk away feeling confident that he will obey.

I hope it’s the latter. With this concept, the Ezzos implore us to allow our children to keep their dignity intact while submitting to our will. Take notice, however, that allowing your child to surrender with dignity does not require you to relinquish your authority in any way.

In On Becoming Childwise, the authors describe a scenario where little Stevie refuses to thank a relative for the birthday gift he has received, despite multiple prompts from mom. Consider this passage (page 228-229):

“There is a way to defuse such potential power struggles and maintain the integrity of your authority. After the second instruction, you should humbly apologize on behalf of the child…then direct stubborn Stevie to his room for some well-needed think time. Voila! The power struggle is unplugged and you have retained your authority.

“Children should be allowed the freedom to surrender with dignity. A child will often defy a parent when the parent makes the option of surrender intolerable. That is, a child will persist with wrong behavior if a parent does not give him room to surrender with dignity.”

“When Stevie’s mom battled him toe-to-toe, her direct insistence made surrendering to her authority in front of everyone difficult, if not impossible. Another response would be if she had walked away from the table after her first verbal reprimand…. Mom’s presence, however, extended the conflict.

“By stepping away, mom would have given Stevie room to surrender with dignity rather than face a continued challenge. If Stevie still chose not to properly respond, then removing him would have been the best option. Wise parenting is better than power parenting.”

As with everything in parenting, our goal is to teach submissiveness with a sincere intent: to pave the way to teach our children. To allow them dignity while they submit to us is not only kind, but it also allows us better opportunities to teach. When our children know that we care enough to allow them that dignity, they are more likely to receive and obey our instruction.

So the next time you give your child an instruction, walk away and see what happens. Walk away with the expectation that he will comply. Allow him to surrender to your will while keeping his dignity, and I bet he will be more likely to comply.

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