I mentioned in a previous post how as a child I wanted my younger siblings to follow my lead. I wanted them to take my instructions as law, but they didn’t respect me, because I had not put in the time to earn that respect. And if that meant they didn’t want to play what I wanted that was one thing, but they would even stage mini-rebellions when I was just being the messenger for Dad and Mom.
“No!” I would say. “You have to listen to me. Dad and Mom said we have to clean this up, so you have to help me do it.”
I felt that my authority was absolute in this case, but they would ignore me all the same. Not because they didn’t respect Dad and Mom, but because they didn’t respect me as their emissary. And no matter of invoked authority was going to make them view me in the same light as the parents.
In those moments I felt an intense aggravation. They needed to do what I was saying, and I had to find a way to make them do it. And that resulted in all manner of shouting and threatening and shaking by the shoulders.
Then one day I realized something. If you need to make someone do something in that very moment…then you’ve already lost. I realized that the campaign for someone’s loyalty is won out long before the moment of need. It has to be sown long in advance.
So if you haven’t already put in that time beforehand, you don’t stand a chance. Then you will be tempted to force them to comply through fear and anger, which might get you what you want in the moment, but will make them resent you even more, and they will be all the less willing to comply next time.
I’m glad to say that after realizing this I started to treat my siblings differently. I stopped trying to make them respect me, and instead got them to know that I liked them. I played with them, I made things for them, I taught them how to ride the bike. I learned how to be nice with no strings attached. I won their hearts at quiet times when I didn’t need a single thing from them.
And then, when I was the emissary for Mom and Dad, and I told them we had been commissioned to do some chore and needed to work together, they happily agreed.