Coercion versus Respect

A colleague emailed me the following paragraph from a book she’s reading called Bringing Home the Dharma: Awakening Right Where You Are by Jack Kornfield. The passage provides a great story about how coercion breeds defiance.

“With acceptance and respect, problems that seem intractable often become workable. A man began to give large doses of cod liver oil to his Doberman because he had been told that the stuff was good for dogs. Each day he would hold the head of the protesting dog between his knees, force its jaws open, and pour the liquid down its throat. One day the dog broke loose and the fish oil spilled on the floor. Then, to the man’s great surprise, the dog returned to lick the puddle. This is when the man discovered that what the dog had been fighting was not the oil but his lack of respect in administering it. With acceptance and respect, surprising transformations can occur.”

The same is true in terms of children and discipline. Each time you coerce someone into doing something by using your power of authority (or by using imposed punishments or rewards), you provoke the natural human tendency to resist. You also deprive that person of an opportunity to become more responsible. If you want to influence someone to do what you want them to do, coercion is not the answer. Practicing the three principles of positivity, offering choices, and encouraging reflection will yield much better results and reduce your discipline challenges.