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Why We Think “Showing Kids What’s What” Doesn’t Actually Work

Showing Kids Whats What 1

Rick was feeling impatient with the way his wife was dealing with their children’s misbehavior.

He shared his thoughts with me during a recent conversation: “I’ve always been the kind of dad that likes to get things done efficiently. When I’d come home and see my wife in seemingly endless conversations with the kids about cleaning up messes or how to treat each other, I’d step in and take over because I figured sometimes these kids just need to know what’s what and who the parent is. The kids would comply and we’d get on with life. At the time I thought my wife was taking way too much time to do what should be quick and pretty easy.”

Since Rick was talking as if that was the way it once was, I asked him what had changed. Here’s what Rick said:

“I began to understand that my big approach, though it worked in the short term to get kids in line, was actually teaching them to comply when they feel scared. I realized my wife was actually way ahead of me in teaching kids about the feelings and the “why?” of things – a much more respectful approach. I saw that both my kids and my wife were growing resentful of my domineering approach. It all changed when I decided that my number one goal was for my kids — and my wife — to view me as safe.”

Like many dads, Rick wants to come home to order. He is pretty skilled at getting things done. But he discovered that getting things done might not always be what’s best in the long run. Yes, the stuff he wanted done often got done, but it was costing him relationship with his wife and kids.

Recognizing he didn’t want to incur that cost, Rick made a new goal – Build wisdom by being safe. He learned (and would say he is still learning) to build better relationship with both wife and kids by slowing down, asking more questions, and keeping his intimidating dad posture in his back pocket for only the most urgent of interactions.

Apply It Now:

  • How about you? How safe would your kids (and spouse) say you feel to them – even when they “misbehave”? Where 0 is “my spouse and kids would say I’m not emotionally safe at all,” and 10 is “They would say I am entirely emotionally safe,” What is your number?
  • If you’d like help to raise your number, check out our coaching options. We’re here to help.


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Jim Jackson
Jim Jackson
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