This article first appeared in our Celebrate Kids, Inc. Newsletter Issue #3 in January.  You can sign up for our newsletter here.
I recently observed two things related to authority. Keep your eyes and ears open, too, because you can learn much by thinking about what you observe. Feel free to share your observations with me. Here are mine today:I just spent several days with some heroes – wounded warriors from Iraq and Afghanistan. During a discussion of leadership, one of the men shared what he believed contributed to his success as a leader. He took time to get to know and to listen to the soldiers he led. He knew which ones were married, who had children, and their names. He even knew which ones had pets and what they named their dogs.

As I heard this hero tell his story and watched other soldiers react, I saw his leadership as authority strengthened by personal care. His concern helped soldiers follow him, in part because they believed he would have their best interest in mind. Do we care? Do the people we have authority over know we care?

While flying home from my time with the heroes, I overhead a dad talk with his young son on his cell phone. After telling him he’d be home soon, he asked, “Did you get in any trouble today?” I was sad that he would begin with such a negative question. Why couldn’t he have asked, “What went right at school today?” Or, “What did you enjoy at school today?” After asking, I could tell he didn’t like his son’s answer. He followed with, “When I get home tonight, you’ll have to tell me why that happened.”

When children know we remember the negatives and we ask questions that imply we’re thinking more about their misbehavior than anything else, we may lose some respect. They may shy away from us when they see us coming. They may lie to avoid our disappointment. Having a negative orientation decreases our authority because it decreases security. I’m sure that little boy wasn’t looking forward to his dad coming home as much after the phone call as he was before. That’s too bad.