All the Answers?
As a parent, I’m a fool to think that I have all the answers, all the time. To suggest to my children that I have crystal clear decision-making, 100% of the time is not only a façade but it can communicate something quite destructive to my children.
There have been occasions where I have made a rash decision as a father. The decision may not have been thoroughly thought through. Whether through exhaustion, lack of information or sometimes even pride, we all can have not fully baked decisions (notice I didn’t say “half baked” decisions, just not fully baked decisions!)
My kids are quite intelligent. They can see through smoke and mirrors. I like that! It keeps me on my toes. The real question is, do I have enough humility as a parent to receive a well thought through and articulate challenge of my authority by my children in a respectful way?
Well, we try.
My wife and I have followed the example of other parents and have employed a strategy called “the appeal”. From time to time, after making a decision, one of my children may ask if that decision could be overturned. The way that they go about asking if this decision could be overturned is by seeking to make “an appeal”.
If their request for an appeal is accepted by me, they have a choice. Do they want a little time to pull together their rationale or are they ready to make the appeal right here and right now. I have been amazed at how my children have the ability, at even a young age, to articulating their feelings, their reasoning, and their position.
Several caveats about “the appeal” process:
#1 - Asking for an opportunity to make an appeal ought to happen rarely, not daily, or even weekly for that matter. We teach our kids to rarely lobby for an appeal. Choose wisely. Conserve your ammunition.
#2 - I have the ability and exercise the authority to say no to their request to even make an appeal. They know this. Asking for an appeal does not necessarily mean that you will be given an opportunity to present your position.
#3 - Crying or whining ENDS the appeal process instantaneously.
#4 - This takes supreme humility on the part of us as fathers.
To Challenge? Or to Obey?
I’m sure someone might say, “This is hogwash. Kids don’t need the ability to make decisions and challenge authority. They need to obey! What type of new age, emotionally sensitive, self-esteem-based parenting strategy is this?!?”
Well, I suppose we’re all entitled to our opinions. However, I actually think learning how to effectively communicate to authority figures in a non-threatening, non-emotive, articulate and logical way is good parenting.
The Old Testament hero Daniel made an appeal. He successfully overturned a decision handed down by King Nebuchadnezzar himself. When asked to eat a forbidden diet, Daniel used logic, reason, persuasion and humility to challenge a decision. That’s enough for me. I want my children to be like Daniel.
I’ve created a free ebook “I Want My Kids to Argue” where you can read this entire blog series in one place. If you are interested in reading through this concept again, or discussing it with your spouse, family or others, sign up here to receive the ebook.