I was listening to a podcast the other day from a guy, Todd Henry, who started a business called Accidental Creative whose purpose is to help companies come up with creative ideas and solutions. Yep. That is his job, to be creative and he’s darn good at it.
Anyway, he made a reference to the business world that I think is incredibly suitable for the “parenting world:” the difference between a lighthouse and a laser:
Main purpose is to say to oncoming vessels, “don’t go there, don’t go there, don’t go there.” In a sense, it is protective.
Main purpose is to point directly, with a purpose, where to go. In a sense, it is directive.
Protective vs. Directive. Perfect. I have used similar words in teaching parents, teachers and staff about changing behavior. For every “no” or “don’t do that” you need to give at least one option for what she can do or what he should do.
Alright, so there are times when you need to be the lighthouse, but you always need to be the laser as well. In a world of only lighthouses, your kid will only know where NOT to go. If you are only a lighthouse, your child will have no direction on where TO go. Whereas your child might avoid the giant rock in the middle of the channel, if he does not have any direction on where to go, he will likely end up running in circles bouncing from danger to danger. He will always need you to be the lighthouse.
At homes and in classrooms, I have seen this played out. The kid starts playing with something he shouldn’t and the parent says, “stop that, don’t play with those,” and the kid moves on to the next thing…”stop that, put those down,” and he goes to the next thing, “ugh! what are you doing? Put that away! Why are you doing this? Go to your room!” Kids need direction. Telling them what NOT to do is not directive. In Todd’s words, it is only “protective.”
Practice this at home…listen to yourself. When you tell your kid NOT to do something, make sure you tell them what TO do. Be a laser! (I’ll trust you to be a good lighthouse).