Giving a moral lecture never works does it?
Here’s a little scenario from my family this week to illustrate this fact. Third Son was across the room on the sofa, Daughter was sitting at the table facing me.
Third Son to Daughter: ‘It was really stupid of you to do that ‘rating people out of ten’ thing you and your friends did today’.
Daughter, looking flushed and upset, angrily: ‘Alright!’
Third Son: ‘No but I mean you should listen to me, it made you look stupid. You shouldn’t join in with stuff like that’.
Daughter, tears welling, still angrily: ‘Ok, ok, you didn’t have to look at it’.
Third Son, triumphantly: ‘Well people show me because you’re my sister, and it’s really embarrassing and they think you’re stupid too’.
Daughter, one tear spilling over, still angrily: ‘Well I don’t care what they think!’
Third Son, self-righteously: ‘Well you should care what other people think of you!’
Third Son, warming to theme: ‘Especially when you do things that make you look stupid. I mean would YOU like it if people rated you out of ten? How would you feel? You shouldn’t do things to other people that you wouldn’t like yourself.’
Daughter, screaming: ‘Alright, alright, I get it, I get it! Just shut up!’
Third Son: ‘Well I was only saying’.
Daughter: ‘SHUT UP!!!’
Me: ‘Er, well, point made, Third Son, shall we have a look to see what’s on telly now Daughter..?’
Neither of them appealed to me for help because I’ve told them before ‘Your arguments are not my business. If I intervene it only makes things worse. But don’t worry, secretly I always know who’s right…’
The whole scenario was a lovely example of how a moral lecture produces resistance, and the more you go on and on the more the message gets lost. I can relate to Third Son because that’s what I always want to do, and I have to work hard to forcibly stop myself giving a moral lecture and trust the message has been heard. Less is more when it comes to making a point. Better to plant the seed and give it space to grow.
It’s difficult though. Later, when I got Third Son alone, I said casually ‘You know before, with Daughter? She was crying’. Third Son looked aghast. ‘Yeah’ I said, ‘You know she really does listen to you even when she looks like she’s not’.
‘Um’ he said, looking thoughtful.
And then I stopped. What I wanted to do was go on and on AND ON AND ON… you know, in order to teach him not to go on and on and on and on…