Beware The Power You Wield

The things we say to our kids matter. The tone we use, the rules we enforce, the standards we hold them to–they feel it. They feel it profoundly. Kids always have and always will.

We recently talked about that fierce and strict Marine, General Victor Krulak. One of his sons once got in trouble and was ordered by his father to write an essay about his screwup. When he was done, he was to bring the essay back downstairs. What was it about? Was his father right to be upset? Coming from a good place? Who knows, who remembers…Krulak probably immediately forgot, thinking only that he was disciplining a child who needed to be taught a lesson.

But the severity, the anger, the judgment of that moment stayed with the boy forever. “The experience so scarred [him],” Robert Coram writes in his biography of the elder Krulak, “that when he was seventy and recounting those days, his voice trembled when he said, ‘Neatness and spelling counted.’”

We wield incredible power over our children. First, because they are small. Later, because they were once small while we were big. That differential never goes away. Which is why we must be so cognizant of how we use this power. It’s why we must be kind and endlessly patient. It’s why we have to work so hard to keep our temper under control. Why we have to practice grace far more readily than punitive measures. It’s why we have to have empathy. It’s why we have to always lead with love.

With power comes responsibility. So be responsible.

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