The “He will listen if you tell him” syndrome

This post was triggered by this exchange between @netshrink and @sarikaphatak on twitter.

@netshrink said: "Why does every woman want me (the doctor) to tell her husband to do things she wants him to do eg. exercise, not drink, come home on time"

and @sarikaphatak replied: "@netshrink that's called 'Sonarane kaan tochane' πŸ™‚ you have much more cred than the so called 'nagging'. effectiveness needs to be studied"

I have also been in a similar situation (i.e. situation similar to @netshrink's) often, except that instead of woman and husband, in my case it is typically mom and child.
It's either a school kid who's probably not studying as much as the mom wants him to, or a college student who is partying too much, or in some cases son/daughter of marriageable age who is rejecting the parents' matrimonial suggestions.

The mom ends up telling me: "He will listen if you tell him."

You know what? Most probably, I'm not going to tell him.

The reason your kid listens to me is because I don't nag him about every damn, trivial thing that you feel compelled to improve in your kid.

The reason your kid listens to me is because of the 100 things that I feel like telling him, I only tell him 3, and keep the remaining 97 to myself. Because, frankly, (and this is true of everything in life), of the 100 things that you worry about, only 3 are really worth worrying about.

No, I am not going to tell your kid to read "educational" books instead of the "trash" he reads. I think the "trash" he reads is fine. No, I'm not going to tell your kid to not play the obscene 'Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.' There's nothing we can really do about it, and might as well focus on ensuring that he grows up with the correct values, inspite of playing GTA: Vice City. No, I'm not going to convince your daughter that she should agree to marry that nice Software Engineer in New York, who makes a lot of money, but is not interested in movies, or books, or sports, or travel. The reason your daughter listens to me is because I don't give her stupid advice like this.

Indian mythology has this interesting concept. Sadhus and rishis acquired great powers through penance, but their powers reduced every time the were used. Hence they had to be a little careful before using their powers and randomly cursing people. That, I find is a very useful piece of insight – your power increases when you don't use it, and decreases when you use it. ("No, I am not going to use my blog to promote your event, because if promoted every silly event, then people will stop reading my blog. I can only promote events that are really worthwhile.")

Now, if I could only follow the above advice when parenting my own kids…. but damnit, it's too difficult to do on a 24×7 basis!

Posted via email from Navin’s posterous

7 thoughts on “The “He will listen if you tell him” syndrome”

  1. Meetu,

    Great blog. I guess everybody will agree to your views but sometimes the relationship with the person and the ‘too much care’ that comes with it clouds your judgement for not ‘overdoing’ it. I have been guilty of it many times only to be reminded by somebody not to. You need a third person perspective in this case, and if you can’t do it, somebody needs to help you. Now that ‘somebody – third person’ might be overdoing telling you not to do it; but that’s a different story πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

    It’s not about them, it’s always about you πŸ™‚ ‘You’ want that person to behave in a certain way πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  2. Sarika, as the last line in the post points out, the closer a relationship, the more difficult it is to follow the advice of this post. But we have to keep trying, I guess. And yes, it definitely helps to have a third person, who is a little removed from the situation, to correct us from time to time.

    And… I wrote the post, not Meetu. πŸ™‚

  3. Thanks for the Sadhu insight. It is really true. Psychology says that we take instructions from people we respect and Constructive criticism works only if offered in the ratio of 10:1 ( 10-no of times you offered praise and 1 being negative statement) most parents get this ratio reversed.
    I am not surprised at their failure.

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