Is using authority a good thing?|Story no. 35/101

One day I returned home to my little girl’s third-year birthday party to find her in the corner of the front room, defiantly clutching all of her presents, unwilling to let the other children play with them.  The first thing I noticed was several parents in the room witnessing this selfish display.

I was embarrassed, and doubly so because at the time I was teaching university classes in human relations.  And I knew, or at least felt, the expectation of these parents. The atmosphere in the room was really charged — the children were crowding around my little daughter with their hands out, asking to play with the presents they had just given, and my daughter was adamantly refusing.  I said to myself, “Certainly I should teach my daughter to share.

The value of sharing is one of the most basic things we believe in.” So I first tried a simple request.  “Honey, would you please share with your friends the toys they’ve given you? “No,” she replied flatly.    My second method was to use a little reasoning.  “Honey, if you learn to share your toys with them when they are at your home, then when you go to their homes they will share their toys with you.” Again, the immediate reply was “No!”

I was becoming a little more embarrassed, for it was evident I was having no influence.  The third method was bribery.  Very softly I said, “Honey, if you share, I’ve got special surprise for you.  I’ll give you a piece of gum.” “I don’t want gum!” she exploded.

Now I was becoming exasperated. For my fourth attempt, I resorted to fear and threat. “Unless you share, you will be in real trouble!” “I don’t care!” she cried. “These are my things. I don’t have to share!” Finally, I resorted to force. I merely took some of the toys and gave them to the other kids.  “Here, kids, play with these.”

But at that moment, I valued the opinion those parents had of me more than the growth and development of my child and our relationship together. I simply made an initial judgment that I was right; she should share, and she was wrong in not doing so.

Perhaps I superimposed a higher-level expectation on her simply because on my own scale, I was at a lower level.  I was unable or unwilling to give patience or understanding, so I expected her to give things.  In an attempt to compensate for my deficiency, I borrowed strength from my position and authority and forced her to do what I wanted her to do.


De-briefing of this story

Borrowing strength builds weakness.  It builds weakness in the borrower because it reinforces dependence on external factors to get things done.  It builds weakness in the other person too because he/she is forced to obey, stunting the development of independent reasoning and internal discipline. And finally, it builds weakness in the relationship.  Fear replaces cooperation, and both people involved become more defensive.

Hence, remember to be patient with people when they are not listening to you and avoid using authority whenever possible.


This Story can be used to share the importance of

1- Parenting

2- Listening to others

3- Not using authority


Story Source

From the book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey.

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