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DON'T ASK THEM, TELL THEM

Today's parents frequently complain that their children don't do as they are told.

That simply isn't true. Almost every child will do what he or she is told, most of the time. (I estimate the figure at more than 90 percent on both counts.) That's a fact, not a theory. The discrepancy between what is absolutely true about children (i.e., they will do what they are told) and what parents report (i.e., many of today's children do not generally do what they are told) is easily explained: Most of today's parents do not tell their children what to do. They ask. In addition to asking, they plead, bargain, cajole, and try to persuade, but they rarely, if ever, simply tell. Examples:

"I think it's time you were in bed, Suzette, don't you?"

"Let's pick up these toys now, Rodney, OK?"

Do you recognize yourself in these examples, dear reader? If so, then I regret to tell you that you do not deserve obedient children. It is said that one gets what one asks for, and since you are asking, not telling, you deserve disobedience.

You also deserve insolence, petulance, disrespect and ungratefulness.

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, wrong with today's children that they cannot be expected to obey as well as did children 45 years ago, when I was 8. My peers and I were mischievous, for sure, but when given direct instruction by an adult, we obeyed. Immediately. Most of the time, that is, and given that all children descend from Adam and Eve, most of the time is as good as it gets. Not so with today's children. They do not obey most of the time, much less immediately, and they are often openly defiant, as in "I'm not going to" and "I don't want to." As I said above, this does not reflect a defect or defects in today's kids. We who are now becoming grandparents obeyed when we were children because our parents told us what to do. Examples:

"Suzette, it's time for bed. Not tired, eh? Well then, my darling, you can stare at the ceiling until you are tired."

"I need you to pick up these toys right now, Rodney, and the television is going off until they are picked up and put away."

Today's parents suffer from DLS, or defective leadership syndrome. They apparently do not understand that parenting requires servant-ship during infancy and early toddlerhood and leadership from that point on. Above all else, good leaders act as if they know what they are doing, even when they are unsure. Good leaders never have to yell or demand attention in other, equally dramatic ways because they speak authoritatively, and authoritative speech commands attention.

If today's parents would simply serve when their children require service and lead when their children require leadership, their children would be grateful and obedient. Of that there is no doubt.

John Rosemond is a family psychologist. His next book, "Raising a Nonviolent Child," will be in bookstores this month. Questions of general interest may be sent to him at Affirmative Parenting, 9247 N. Meridian, Indianapolis, IN 46260 and at his Web site: http://www.rosemond.com/

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