Cops vs. Shepherds

Are you a cop or a shepherd?

Specifically, regarding parenting style, which one are you?

The cop directs.

The shepherd guides.

The cop takes over.

The shepherd lets the child have some control.

The cop needs to solve the problem NOW.

The shepherd helps the child solve the problem in his own time.

The cop yells or talks in a stern voice.

The shepherd talks softly, with measured words and tone.

The cop tells the child what ‘law’ they’ve broken and makes sure that they know it.

The shepherd assumes the child already knows she did wrong, and that she probably feels some shame and fear.

The cop tells. (e.g. “Put your jacket on!”)

The shepherd asks. (e.g. “Do you think you need a jacket?”)

The cop is rigid.

The shepherd, flexible.

The cop brings up past crimes, the ‘rap sheet’.

The shepherd allows some grace.

The cop blames.

The shepherd seeks to understand.

The cop judges.

The shepherd seeks to understand.

The cop is suspicious.

The shepherd assumes good intentions.

The cop is defensive.

The shepherd isn’t.

The cop looks to win.

The shepherd looks ahead.

The cop fights.

The shepherd walks alongside.

The cop squares off.

The shepherd stands by.

The cop dictates.

The shepherd suggests.

The cop burns out.

The shepherd keeps moving forward.

The cop makes a big footprint.

The shepherd follows the footprints of the child.

The cop Comments.

The shepherd Listens.

The cop dissects and interrogates.

The shepherd connects and integrates.

The cop needs to get his point across.

The shepherd looks for meaning and truth in what the child says and does.

The cop makes arrests.

The shepherd makes accommodations.

The cop gets a ‘collar’.

The shepherd gets a protege.

The cop has goals and aggression.

The shepherd has mountains of patience.

Children eventually avoid, fear, and resent the cop.

Children eventually seek out, trust, and respect the shepherd.

With your kids, be a shepherd, at least for part of the time.

Anthony Ferraioli, M.D.

Author, Don’t Get Married! (Unless You Understand a Few Things First)


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