In synch

A great deal of adult energy is expended on these efforts:

• getting kids to do things we think they should do

• getting them to do things we think they should do how we think they should do them

• getting them to do things we think they should do as well as we think they should

• getting them to do things when we think they should do them

In the course of it, we end up in a role we never imagined or intended – that of dictator.  We might be benevolent in our dictating, or we may be otherwise, but either way, we charge ourselves with dictating.

Even if we believe it’s good for kids to be told what to do, how, when, etc., the thing about being a dictator is that it’s very tiring and stressful.  It involves a lot of swimming against the current, and it tends to yield very little progress.  It feels like what we’re supposed to do, as adults, for kids’ own good, but it doesn’t really even get us what we want (kids who apply themselves, take initiative, etc.).

What would happen if we took off our dictator hats and assumed a role more like guide, coach, or consultant?  People in these roles, unlike dictators, are not charged with knowing everything and running everyone’s life.  Their job is to make their knowledge and experience available – to be willing to apply it to the situations, requests, needs, and interests that arise in the lives of others.  As a guide, coach, or consultant, you get to be involved with the course of a child’s life but you don’t have to micromanage it.  You don’t have to have everything decided and figured out ahead of time.  (And what a relief that would be in a world that’s changing as fast as this one, at this particular moment in history.)  If you’re relieved of that duty you’ll become available for what kids actually need you for – helping navigate the tricky waters of making choices, making commitments, making sense of surprises and inconsistencies.  In other words, living.

Assuming this other kind of role is not easier than being a dictator. It takes consideration, flexibility, creativity, and responsiveness. Dictating tends to rely on the more automatic and readily available forces of tradition, habit, and impulse.  But the work you put into your new role will be more in synch with what you probably actually want – competent, self-assured kids who trust you and look to you for guidance.  And it’ll show in the results.