One big roadblock to good communication is delivering solutions, with ‘ordering’ a prime solution delivery vehicle for many parents.
“Get over here right now! (or you’ll be sorry)”
“Stop making that noise and go make yourself useful. (Don’t make me come over there”)
An order is a solution that is sent coercively and backed by authoritative force. When coercion is used, resentment and resistance is often the result. Sabotage is another option.
Children who are constantly given orders may become very submissive and compliant. Orders imply that the child lacks good judgment and therefore undermines their developing self-esteem.
Orders command action and reinforce to the child the subservient role that they know they occupy. The parent has all the power (at least with young children), which may allow the parent to feel good, especially if don’t enjoy the same level of influence in their adult relationships. But to abuse this power by constantly ordering their children around serves to model bad behavior for the child to copy.
Children order their siblings around, which leads to resentment. A common sibling reply to an order is “You’re not the boss of me!” (Or the older child version: “Who died and made you boss?“) They are imitating what they see and what they want – to be the power in the relationship. Often these children grow up to be intimidating bosses to fearful employees.
Orders are absolutely appropriate when the child is in imminent danger. “Don’t touch the hot stove!”, “Stop- don’t cross the street! A car is coming!” And when those orders are few and far between, it guarantees that when you raise your voice in an important order, you will be listened to.
When there is no imminent danger present, there are many more respectful ways to communicate with children of any age instead of ordering them around.
With a military trained father, orders were the norm in our house: “Please pass the salt” resulted in a response of “Please pass the salt WHAT?” to which the expected reply was, “Please pass the salt, SIR!”. Boot camp training in respect for little children who didn’t know they signed up for the 18-year tour of duty! Yikes! Don’t do this to your kids.