We Work Better Together

My chiropractor is a single man, and I’m guessing he doesn’t have any close friends or relatives with young kids. He is constantly remarking about Moira: her energy, her intelligence, her vocabulary…. Frequently, he mentions her bossiness, or how well she “has me trained”. I always rephrase or contradict his statement loud enough for Moira to hear: “She’s not bossy, she’s two.” She has limited ability to describe what she wants. She has her own opinions.

When we go to his office she expects the same series of things to happen, stories while we wait, playing with the wind-up toy, using some of his lotion, receiving jelly beans or a sticker when we are all done. Most toddlers love ritual and routine. Unfortunately, they also have limited vocabulary skills to express what they want.

Today he said, “Moira, you have to learn that Mommy is the boss.” I don’t know if it was the fact that he directly addressed Moira, or the exact phrasing, but that was a step too far for me.

“No,” I said, “she doesn’t have to learn I’m the boss. Moira is the boss of Moira, and I am the boss of me and we like to work together. Our life works better if we can agree on a goal.”

“Really,” he asked, “that works?”

I asked him, “Well, does it work with you? Do you prefer to work with people or have someone boss you around?

He agreed that it does work with him. Of course it does. He started his own collective of independently operating medical professionals (including our Naturopath, a Rolfer, and a couple of massage therapists) because he didn’t like working in a traditional practice. On my first visit, he spent much of the appointment telling me why traditional Chiropractic care doesn’t work as well as holistic care. They are encouraged to get the patients in and out as fast as possible.

This led to a discussion about parenting, something he hasn’t thought much about. I pointed out that even though Moira is little, she is still a person. Just because I’m larger doesn’t mean that my wants and whims are more worthy of respect then hers are. If I want to go inside and she wants to stay outside, that doesn’t mean that she’s wrong and I should force her. I told him that I hope that working out compromises with her now will make it easier for her to work them out in the rest of her life. Compassion, understanding and compromise are all things I want to teach her. The best way to teach most things is through modeling.

I think my chiropractor is awesome. He takes his time and deals with each of his patients as an individual with different problems that need different solutions. Hopefully, if he decides to have kids, he can learn to treat them the same way.

Photo credit: anissat

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About the author: Shannon is a former nanny and the happy and tired mama of an energetic and always enthusiastic two year old. They spend their days playing, reading and crafting. A version of this post was originally published at Pineapples & Artichokes.

About The Author: Shannon

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Shannon blogs at Pineapples & Artichokes. She also contributes recipes to Food & Laughter.

15 Responses to We Work Better Together

  1. kelly @kellynaturally  

    This is such a lovely article; thank you for sharing this story, and for speaking up about respectful parenting to someone who is likely still forming opinions about children. You could affect small lives in the future! :)

  2. Lauren

    I’m sure her future teachers and employers will thank you for the way you’re bringing her up to not accept authority too :S

    • RedPowerLady

      Where is that said? Sounds like mom and child have a deep respect for one another. I don’t see disrespect anywhere in the article, for mom or anyone else.

      • Lauren

        What examples have we been given that there is mutual respect? I’m sure the mother believes she is respecting the child by forming goals together and maintaining the child’s autonomy, but how do we know if a child respects a mother? If that child obeys the parent. Parents are the natural authority figure for the child. They are not a teammate.

        Can you picture a class full of primary school age students trying to ‘agree on a similar goal’ with their teacher? It’s just a fact that in life there are chains of authority we will constantly have to answer to. Starting with our parents.

    • Heather  

      “but how do we know if a child respects a mother? If that child obeys the parent. Parents are the natural authority figure for the child. They are not a teammate.”

      I disagree entirely. For one, that’s not respect. Obedience is not respect. It’s obedience. I obeyed and knew my mother was “the boss” and I had zero respect for her then and very little now. I also have no respect for authorities (despite being supposedly raised to have it) because they’ve had none for me and talked down to me, treating me like less than any other human being because I was a child. A child with a higher IQ than most of them, by the way.

      Respect is a two way street. If you want it, you give it, plain and simple. If you treat the child like a dog, then you have no relationship or have to re-earn it with that child when they’re an adult, which will be, all things willing, the vast majority of their life.

      I know people who practice consensual living and their children are a hell of a lot more respectful than mine (I just don’t have the patience for it–I was raised with typical mainstream bullying parenting and it’s something I struggle with constantly to not fall into–the same with my husband and he wasn’t even raised with violence the way I was).

      If the proof is in the pudding, then I can say without a doubt that mom who’s the boss is NOT respected as much as mom who’s the guide and ‘teammate’ of the child, from the teenage and adult children of these kinds of parents, who I am proud to count as my friends.

      • Lauren

        Well I can understand your point of view given the description of your upbringing and life experience.
        However, you did not explain- if not obedience, then what does a respectful child look like?

        I’m sure some children obey out of fear, but plenty of children of well-balanced parents obey because they respect their parent as their authority figure because they have a deeply trusting relationship.

        We can also give anecdotal evidence till the cows come home, but I think that with either the parent who prefers to be an ‘authority figure’, or a parent who sees themselves as a ‘teammate’, as long as they are putting their child’s interests and well-being before their own and have a balanced approach, the kids probably all turn out pretty okay.

      • Dionna  

        Hi Lauren! I’m glad you started some interesting conversations. If you’re interested in reading more about consensual living & the philosophy that parents can teach respect without enforcing blind obedience, I’d recommend:
        Kohn, Unconditional Parenting
        Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication
        Gordon, Parent Effectiveness Training
        There are more listed in this suggested reading list from Consensual-Living.com: http://www.consensual-living.com/suggestedreading.htm

        I have a friend who blogs at Living Peacefully with Children; she is my role model for consensual living. She does not teach her children “obedience” like you and I were probably raised with, and her children are all incredibly respectful. I’d encourage you to check her writing out!

  3. Lauren  

    Wow, I really like this. I’m not always as comfortable speaking up when phrases like this hit my ears, and I’m glad to see you had such a respectful conversation with your chiropractor about it. It sounds like he really got it, too.

  4. Shae  

    Lauren-
    I think there is a huge difference between being respectful and being permissive.
    Letting your child do whatever they want is not the same as working together-sometimes the child will not get what they want. Unfortunately we are told to expect complete compliance from our children and a lot of the things we expect them to comply on are unfair based on age appropriateness.

    I hope that my children grow up to negotiate and not let them selves be doormats when they are adults.

    • Lauren

      You’re right ;)
      There are probably plenty of parents who expect complete compliance from children who do not unduly burden their children with unfair requests that aren’t age appropriate too who don’t raise them to be doormats.

      I think there are probably balanced and unbalanced parents on either end of the spectrum.

  5. Arpita  

    This is a fantastic article! So glad that you were able to speak up. I only hope that if/ when people say things like that to me I’ll be able to be as strong. Thanks for posting and for the inspiration! :)

  6. Sarah

    I also agree there can be people on either end of the spectrum – from permissive to dictator. However neither of those has mutual respect. I’m not perfect, but I try to allow my children to voice their thoughts as much as possible. there are things that they have no say over i.e. they must always sit in their carseats and be buckled up every time we drive. However they are allowed to tell me they don’t like it. And when we don’t HAVE to go somewhere they have the option of telling me they do or don’t want to go. Sometimes we’ll cancel an outing b/c someone just doesn’t want to get buckled up.

    If we tell them to do something they might say no, cry, or stomp. And then we can help them learn how to tell us in words they don’t like the idea. And we can discuss it. Sometimes that means we change our mind and they do watch another show – sometimes we need to explain ourselves better so they can understand why we are holding firm in our stance.

    With a 2 and a 4 yr old my children both say please, thank you etc – and have never been forced. they both come to us and ask for help if they need it. They can also tell us when they don’t want help. They might not have the life experience to know how to use words all the time, they might not have the control to use words instead of hitting or screaming, but they trust that we can help them and the more help we give them the fewer times we see outbursts.
    Our children treat us as we treat them. And we try to treat them as we would other adults – or as we want to be treated. To me that is what mutual respect looks like.

    “It’s just a fact that in life there are chains of authority we will constantly have to answer to. Starting with our parents.”

    I see that many people believe this, but it isn’t a fact. There is always a choice. A child that is raised in a mutually respectful, consensual household is less likely to step out of the bounds of the law but more likely to question authority. Questioning authority is not the same as breaking the law. Some laws are wrong. Some rules don’t make sense. Unless a person is lucky there are likely to be times in life when a boss/teacher will tell you to do something you know is wrong, yet most people do it anyway. I hope that by raising my children respectfully, with the knowledge they can always question my rules, they will be strong enough to stand up against it.

    At work I can choose to not do certain things, however there are likely to be consequences. But it is my choice to take those consequences or to do as expected. It doesn’t really matter what choice I make. It is mine to make.

    Just because a person is a parent, teacher, doctor, lawyer, policeman etc doesn’t mean they are always right and should always be obeyed.

    • Lauren

      “Just because a person is a parent, teacher, doctor, lawyer, policeman etc doesn’t mean they are always right and should always be obeyed.”

      No they won’t always be right, but the probably will have to be obeyed a lot of the time. I mean, are you trying to raise anarchists? I think we will have to agree to disagree on the ‘chains of authority’ thing.

      This reinforces my original point that teachers are going to love a class full of kids challenging their authority. Sounds really productive ;)

      It occurs to me that for the person who believes obedience is key and those that do not, there are probably different goals that the parents each have for the raising of their children. I almost certainly have different goals in parenting than the mainstream, or even the ‘natural parenting’ community. So we won’t agree necessarily, but I really appreciate everyone seriously engaging me. I’ve learned a lot, and I’ll be checking out those links too Dionna.

  7. Shannon

    I think as with most things, respect is best taught by example. If I want her to say thank you, I thank her. If I want her to respect me, I respect her. This is how my parents modeled behavior to me, and I think it worked pretty well. I never had a problem in school or visiting friend’s houses respecting their rules. I never acted disrespectfully to a person in a position of power as a child, and I have only done it rarely as an adult. I did refuse to do some dangerous things that adults and my peers suggested to me. And when I had a teacher who was out of control with anger, I went the principle to complain. I want my daughter to feel comfortable saying no in situations that feel bad to her, even if her father or I are the ones suggesting her. Blindly following the pack out of obedience can get you hurt. There is also a huge difference between the interactions between a family and those between a teacher and students.
    There are times I expect my daughter to listen to me immediately, like when she’s hurting someone, or running out in traffic. I have never had a problem with her obeying when I have to insist that we do things my way. I think the definition of anarchy is not people working together for a common goal, but rather, everyone working for their own interests with no regard for others.

  8. Momma Jorje

    Growing up with authority-figure parents, I too struggle to not take the same attitude with my toddler. I am not looking to teach her to blindly follow authority just because it is authority. I want her to trust her own self. I want to build a loving and *lasting* relationship with her. I think we’re off to a great start! :-)

    Oh, as for teachers having a problem with parents raising their children in this manner… well, we plan to homeschool.

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