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And just like that, he proved his point

5 very ineffective behaviors of figures of authority

1) Wanting to be seen as perfect or all knowing

2) Not taking responsibility for own mistakes and blaming others

3) Claiming absolute authority

4) Giving consequences that are punitive and based on anger

5) Modeling smartness rather than imparting wisdom

The morning had started out like most of our mornings. Rushing around, yelling at the top of my lungs, urging the kids to hurry, running around to see everything was moving along in warp speed, screaming to make sure to bring all their books, homework, and whatever project was due for the week, the day, the hour! Finally, we are all in the car trying to make it to school by 7:45am. Even though their school was only a less than a mile away, if you were not parking by 7:30, you would still get into the classroom by 7:45, partly because of the traffic and parking situation, and partly because little feet don’t make long enough strides to make it in to the classroom from the parking spot in less than ten minutes.

Knowing all this, I drive silently, and the tension in the car is thick. One of my sons, Ben, speaks up quietly and slowly, “Mama…I feel like I forgot something…like I left something in the house.” You can imagine that this was the last straw and the preaching that followed and the “I told you so’s” piled on top of everything else I could think of to prove my point. I look back and he’s about to cry while his twin brother, Tim sits stoically in his car seat, looking out the window. I homed in for the kill and started another diatribe of how not caring is not a good thing, and how people will not like you and you will not become successful when you grow up. I then gave a list of things he would have to do when he came home tonight after he did his homework. I listed off his chores and how he cannot watch TV or read his book before he put his backpack together. Tim was always the one who could entertain himself regardless of the consequence we would give him. Once when he was on time-out staring at the wall, he became so engrossed in looking at the ants and the trail they were making, he didn’t want to leave the wall after he had served the time. Now, I see that same intensity, that same looking-out-the-window stare, and no response.

We get to the perimeter of the school, and I suddenly had this burst of self-awareness, and I say, “I’m sorry I yelled at you”, I look back at them through the rear-view mirror, and I see tears rolling down Ben’s cheek, and I feel this wave of guilt. “BUT, when you see me running around like that, I need you to help me!”

The traffic moves, and I swoop into a space, skillfully. Feeling better already, partly because I felt I had made my point, and mostly because I owned that space, and we were going to make it on time. I look back at my sons and say, “Okay, mama’s sorry and mama’s just very stressed, but we’ll do better tomorrow, okay?” Ben looks at me and says, “Okay Mama, but just because you’re stressed doesn’t mean you can take it out on us.”

And just like that, he proved his point.


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