Straight talk is vital when it comes to children. I learned this lesson long ago when I was taking care of a teenager for three years. I had warned her that if she misbehaved in a certain way again (I can’t any longer recall the circumstances), I would put her across my knee and spank her. When I said that, it was just a threat, and I thought it would be enough to deter her, particularly since she was at that time about seventeen. But then she disobeyed me once more, and I was honor-bound to deliver. I applied a hairbrush ten times to her rump. When it was over there were tears in her eyes and I was taken aback, but I thought that perhaps the indignity had upset her. I hadn’t struck her hard at all. About a year later she told me that it was not the punishment itself that had hurt so much but the quality of my attention. She said that anyone else would have brought the brush down in a different spot each time but because I was so careful, I hit her repeatedly in the same place and almost broke the skin. It’s not that I recommend corporal punishment. I don’t. What is important is that you shouldn’t tell a child that you will do something (or not do something) unless you mean it, because, if you don’t follow through, and it is an empty promise, the child will no longer believe you or have any respect for you. (The same is true for adults, of course.) I know a woman who is always lashing out at her children verbally, but they no longer pay much attention to what she says, because they know that she is speaking from anger and that she has no intention of fulfilling her threats.
Intimately connected to this is the practice of asking a child to do something one way while you yourself act differently. Children learn through mimicry and osmosis. They copy the way you behave. If you are always anxious, the chances are that they will learn to be anxious too. It’s in the air. If you remain calm, then they will not panic. You are the one providing the cues.
It follows that using reverse psychology also sends children a hollow message and the repercussions later in their lives may be irreversible. And, lastly, I don’t subscribe to the “If you eat one more mouthful, then you may…” school. Bargaining with children is an unfortunate practice. I admit that I was tempted to use both these methods when my son was little, but I didn’t succumb. I found that if I spoke with enough authority and really meant what I said, he heard me and would fall into line (Shades of Dr Seuss).
At one time in my life I was put in charge of the advertising for the philosophy school where I was a student. I was instructed that all I needed to do was present what we were offering accurately and concisely, never promising that any particular result it. After all, how could one know what the result might be for other people? The point of advertising is to offer customers goods and services they might need. It is not about tempting them to buy something they might want. There is a vast difference between necessity and desire. I don’t think that anyone remembers this anymore. Copywriters nowadays imagine that their job is to arouse desire. They do this by pinpointing a perceived need but it is rarely a true need.
From NOTHING LEFT OVER