Remember that old adage that says it’s easier to get forgiveness than it is to get permission? Well, in your quest for effective parenting, throw that adage out the window. Forgiveness promotes power, while permission promotes relationship. Forgiveness smoothes over problems, while permission avoids them. In such a situation as a healthy, effective parent, choose permission.
Jim was walking passed his daughter Emily’s door to her bedroom and saw her light on. “Hey, sweetheart, up kinda late, aren’t you. The 18 year old nodded and stretched at her desk. “Just working on my personal statement for college applications. It’s kicking my butt,” she grumbled.
“Hard to figure out what to say and how to say it, so that you get your best bang for the buck, huh?” Jim commented, using his best active listening skills. “I can look at what you’ve got so far and give you feedback, if you’d like. What do you think?”
Emily glanced back at her computer screen and sighed, “Yeah, sure, why not?” Jim left his perch in her doorway and came over to her desk to look over her shoulder at her draft.
Jim could have come into his daughter’s room, after all, it is in his house, blustered some comment about her needing to get to bed, and sat down at her computer to critique and finish her draft personal statement. He has every right to do this, as her parent, but at what cost to Emily and to their relationship? She might have protested. Dad might have apologized, seeking her forgiveness, but the damage would have already been done.
Even if Jim had crafted the world’s best personal statement for his daughter, it would have been his words, not hers, and a teachable moment would have been lost.
Instead, Jim used his active listening to help lower the emotional fever his daughter conveyed by her words about the task kicking her butt. When he felt she was calmer, and in a better place to make good decisions, he asked permission to help her. This request became a context for a boost to their relationship and a collaborative effort, with Emily taking the lead and dad helping out.
After helping Emily out of her funk, he has more confidence that she will benefit from his wise counsel, the heart of a teachable moment. Even though this example is with a teen, the skill of asking permission of your child to help or direct them is universal. How many 4 year olds hear a grown-up give them the respect of asking their permission? How cool is that? Improved emotional intimacy, relationship and bonding are the result. This is the value of asking permission.