In this episode, I want to discuss the topics of commitment and compliance that I spoke with my children about in the last episode. A great example of this came up for us actually just the other day when one of my kids decided that in spite of the fact that we strive for good manners at the dinner table, he would try and eat his food using no hands.
This obviously was not something that we were very interested in entertaining. And the first thing I tried to do was reinforce to him that, Hey, these are the rules. We have good manners at the table. Now, one of the challenges with this, and I'll talk about this a little bit later on, uh, this, this is a six-year-old boy.
Summary and Quotes
[00:00:39] – Reinforcing the rules
[00:02:36] – Commitment vs Compliance
[00:04:47] – Kids are different, they think different. They are experiencing things for the first time
[00:07:49] – It is ok to come to mom and dad with questions
[00:10:37] – Veiled curiosity from other parents
“Commitment from our perspective is when everyone understands the same objectives and they see value in achieving those objectives. From a compliance standpoint, compliance oftentimes is avoiding getting in trouble, which is not necessarily the same thing as doing the right thing.” [00:02:44]
“One of the biggest challenges that I have personally faced when I'm trying to explain the “why” to my kids is I know that I'm too verbose. I have a hard time making it simple enough to be effective, and it's actually. It's actually more challenging to communicate a concept with a child oftentimes than it is within an adult because I really have to change gears and I have to say, okay, more words are not better here..“ [00:06:28]
“We are going to copy by default, not by choice necessarily, but by default, we have been grown up under that same system by which they were successful in reproducing and raising us. So the easiest thing for us to do. Subconsciously is to just copy what they did, and it takes effort to make a change in that pattern of raising up a kid.” [00:14:49]
To a child, minding manners is an abstract concept. So what I wanted to do was I was going from the compliance thing where saying, listen, you're going to follow these rules. Instead, I wanted to get commitment from him. So what I decided to do was I decided to frame it from a different perspective once he said, well, why do I need to have manners?
I know he needs, he knows the answer to that question. Okay? But what we discussed very quickly was, first of all, we stopped the behavior so that he's focused on me and. I asked him, I said, do you like going over to your friends and having dinner at their house or having a snack at their house?
And he said, well, of course I love that. And I asked him, do you think that your friend's parents will continue to invite you over if you eat like this at their house? You said, well, no, of course they won't. I said, do you think if I see you eating like this. That I can send you to their house knowing that they're not going to invite you over again and that I'm probably going to hear about it, and that other people then of your friends will say, their parents will say, Hmm, do we want to have this kid over here?
Probably not because he eats like a dog very quickly. My son started to see the link between the abstract concept of manners and the concrete desire that he had to go and spend time with his friends and eat food at their house. So this is an example of commitment versus compliance. So just from a sort of a definitional standpoint, so we're working from the same, vocabulary here.
So. Commitment from, from our perspective, is when everyone understands the same objectives and they see value in achieving those objectives. From a compliance standpoint, compliance oftentimes is avoiding getting in trouble, which is not necessarily the same thing as doing the right thing. So not doing the wrong thing.
Is not necessarily the same thing as doing the right thing. And as I mentioned in the last episode, there are certainly times when compliance is needed, especially in relation to safety. Anything related to safety, we need immediate compliance. You can ask questions about it later, but right now you need to comply with this because we need to keep you safe.
Now this. Concept is, is really valuable. It's, it's kind of like, it's kind of like planting a tree or, or planting a garden. You put those seeds in the ground and you have to do a lot of work before you actually get any benefit from the work that you've done. And so from, from, from our perspective as parents, this pays dividends as the child grows because.
As the child gets older, they get more and more agency. They're able to do more and more things. They're able to be more and more independent. If we take a compliance only approach or a compliance heavy approach, then the cost of enforcing compliance becomes higher the older the child gets. And as, as on the other side of the coin, the Cost of enforcing commitment or commitment becomes almost second nature as the child gets older.
So you put in a lot more work to build that commitment upfront, but then as the child gets older, when enforcing compliance would actually be more difficult, it actually becomes easier to be a good parent, basically at that point in the game. So for me, one of the biggest things that I had to realize was that my children are not simply small adults with cognitive impairment.
Kids are different. They think differently. And a lot of this has to do not only with the fact that their brains are developing, but also the fact that they're experiencing. Many things in the world for the first time. So we as adults, as parents, we have the curse of knowledge. Think about the first time you drove a car versus driving home.
Yesterday or today. It's not memorable at all that the drives that we take today, it's, it's routine. But the first time you drove that car, the first time you parallel park was a different story, most likely. And so one of the things I've had to kind of slow down and realize is that a lot of these experiences are completely new and novel experiences for my children.
And. That's why I try and focus so much on translating anything that's abstract and just something that's concrete to something that they can, they can touch and feel and understand. So kind of like the example that I provided earlier about minding your manners versus being able to go over to a friend's house.
I guess another way that you could look at it as a, it's a good answer to the question. Well, why do I need to mind my manners? Well, so that other parents will want to have you over their house and won't scream and run the other way if they hear that you're going to be stopping by. And from that perspective.
One of the biggest challenges that I have personally faced when I'm trying to explain the why to my kids is I know that I'm too verbose. I have a hard time making it simple enough to be effective, and it's actually. It's actually more challenging to communicate a concept with a child oftentimes than it is within an adult because I really have to change gears and I have to say, okay, more words is not better here.
More complex is not better here. The simplest way is what's going to win the day when I'm interacting with my kids, but what I believe that this effort. Sets us up for is it sets us up for, for a lot of things. Number one, we're sending our children the signal that, Hey, you know what? It's okay to ask mom and dad questions.
And not only is it okay to ask mom and dad questions, but sometimes if they don't have a good answer, they'll tell us, or they'll say, Hey, you know what? I don't, I don't know the answer to that right now, but let's go look it up and let's find out why that is actually important. When we don't tell them because I said so then what?
We're setting them off for it is that. Number one, that it's okay to come to us with questions as they become older. That's going to be really important because when they have questions that are, shall we say, more sensitive of a nature, then why do I need to have manners at the table? I want them to come to me and I want them to come to their mother.
As the first person that they're going to ask those questions to. I don't want them going to someone else because they don't feel comfortable coming to us either because they don't feel that they're going to be treated sick, taken seriously, or because they feel that they're going to get a a answer that is BS or that we're just gonna brush them off with the answer that we provide to them.
So that's what we're trying to set up here. It's not just about commitment and compliance, it's about, the longterm thing, I guess it is. It is then about commitment because we're showing that we have the commitment to them by taking the time to answer their questions. Now, I should say, of course.
We've all played the wide game with, with kids going on and on and on and on ad nauseum. And I'm not saying that you have to just be a puppet for that and just completely answer those questions. But a lot of times what we'll do is we'll just start asking questions back. Why is this? Why, why, or why are flamingos pink?
And. You know, we'll provide an answer and then maybe we'll look something up. Well, why, what? And then instead of giving answers, we'll start asking questions. What other animals are pink w how do you think that helps the Flamingo? Yeah, I'll, I'll questions like that, that get them to think.
And what we found is that that is a better way to, Get the questioning, get the incessant whining to stop then by simply saying, well, because that's the way it is, or because I said so. we've also found that it really does kind of open up some really interesting dialogues and interesting responses, that our kids kind of, , they, they stop and they think about it and they come up with some really interesting reasons for the questions that they ask for some really interesting answers that they are.
Deriving on their own. And that ability to be curious about something, to ask a question about something, and then to reflect on it themselves and provide their own answers is, is a skill that we think will benefit them in the future. So I will say that this is one thing that we definitely have gotten a little bit of.
Perhaps we'll call it push back or, or, maybe veiled curiosity would be another good way to describe it from other parents. So, especially when this interaction happens out in public. So the first thing that we do, just so you know, is we, check whatever behavior. That we're seeing that we might find objectionable.
So we're not having, we're not trying to have a dialogue here. All the kid is still doing something that is, causing, an issue in the first place. So we're stopping that behavior. Then we're engaging in this dialogue and some of the feedback that. I've heard, and it hasn't been worded in exactly this way, but , it, it boils down ultimately to, we shouldn't have to explain yourself to your children, and.
In some ways I agree specifically when it comes to safety, especially if that safety is something that is, is, of sort of an urgent nature. If there is an issue, like we're in a parking lot or, or something comes up where you're doing something unsafe as a child, They, obviously, children are still building their global knowledge of the world.
They don't understand a lot of the things that we take for granted because we've had experience with a lot of things like, like knives and like, pointy things and electricity and other things like that. So whenever it comes to safety or gravity, that's another great one. Whenever it comes to safety, you're right.
I don't have to explain myself. I can explain myself after, and I often will explain myself after, but in the moment, no way. when it comes to safety, they're there. There's no discussion. there may be a after action. There may be sort of a discussion afterwards so that the kid knows and learns from that and makes a better, better choice next time.
but in discussions with our friends, what has really come up is that when another parent sees us interact with our kid this way, what we've discovered is that it actually brings up memories in that person of how they were treated as a kid. And. It makes them realize, Hey, well, okay, these people are doing it differently than how I was, and that means that.
I could be doing it differently and my folks could have done it differently, which, which ultimately makes them uncomfortable. and so obviously our intention is not to make folks uncomfortable, when we're, we're out in public. but it is interesting to see how, how that does, that does trigger, Some, some sort of, I don't know if it's anxiety or discomfort in other parents. when they see things being done in a different way than how they, they were treated. And, and I have to say that for instance, if I saw, a kid really being yelled at or being, Hit or something like that, I would probably respond with the same level of discomfort.
So, I can, I can probably understand, it's, it's interesting to see from that perspective. but I can imagine what that would feel like because if I think about that and I think about the instances where in passing, you know, I have seen a, another child being screamed at or something like that by there.
by their parent. you know, I, I know exactly where that feeling is in my stomach of, of sort of like, Ooh, man, that's, makes me, , it's just, it's, it makes me uncomfortable. so from that perspective, it's a, it's a different tool set. Once again, this is how the choice that we, are choosing to make.
And as I, I explained, I think that, we have a pretty good. Well thought out rationale of why this will be beneficial into the future because ultimately we are creatures of habit and we're going, the default path for us is to repeat the actions that we were raised with. Let's face it. The reason that we're here is because our parents were successful enough to reproduce and.
We are going to copy by default, not by choice necessarily, but by default we have been grown up under that same system by which they were successful in reproducing and raising us. So the easiest thing for us to do. Subconsciously is to just copy what they did, and it takes effort to make a change in that pattern of raising up a kid.
And that's what we're all about here because we like to say that we did the best we could with the knowledge we had. That's the end of this episode. Do you have any questions, comments? Please send an email and we'll see you in the next show.