“I will not give our dog treats for obeying.” I told my husband, “She needs to respect me as the ultimate authority without room for negotiation.”
Of course, she’s ridiculously fluffy and cute–so I stepped outside to give her a treat for no reason at all. But as I realized my approach probably completely baffles family and friends. After all, I do give my kids small treats or time to do something fun for each school assignment completed.
So do I care about my dogs more than my children? Not at all, my dogs, large livestock guardian’s lives literally depend on being under my authority. They can do their best to keep all risks at bay, but when I call them back from scaring off a delivery driver or attacking a visiting friend or neighbor’s dog they need to respect my authority immediately and without question.
But with my children, it’s different. Yes, they are under my authority now. Especially when they are young and need to be kept physically safe. I don’t offer bribes to keep them from running out into a busy traffic-filled street. But, as they get older, I want them to learn how to respectfully negotiate with the authority figures in their lives.
I want them to have the skills to become competent employees, successful business owners, and good citizens who can deal appropriately with the people they encounter. There is a difficult balance to strike here in order to be successful.
It’s incredibly important that we don’t focus on raising “good” compliant children that impress our family and friends and the expense of their future happiness. Honestly, I’m less worried about somewhat sassy children than I am those desiring to please others at any price.
Giving them regular opportunities to get negotiate, get “paid,” and think about their own value in various contexts gives me insight into their personalities and characters. It also allows me to see things we need to work on, have realistic conversations about the world adults navigate, and gives them opportunities to learn while the stakes are low.
What do you do that might look crazy to the outside world, but makes all the difference for your family? I’d love to hear about it!