I don’t know of a parent who could say that their children listen well all the time. But there definitely are kids out there who listen more than mine.
Yes, my kids understand my husband and I run the household and make the rules. They certainly understand there are non-negotiables in our family. For instance, they are expected to use their words, even if it takes an absurd amount of reminding. And they understand our expectations. Like, they need to put their dirty clothes in the laundry hamper and make their beds. Additionally, they have to ask to ride their bikes or go over to a neighbourhood friend’s house. We expect them to be truthful, even if it isn’t easy to come clean. That sort of stuff. Despite the fact that they do adhere to these expectations overall, I can confidently say that my kids aren’t obedient. And, to be completely honest, I’m okay with that. It’s definitely not the easiest way to parent, but it is crucial to how I want to raise my kids.
Case in point was this Friday. My husband had left for a business trip for the next five days and I had a prenatal appointment.
In the car on the way to the obstetrician’s office, I informed my two little ones of the importance of the appointment. I did my best to be clear, “The nurse has to examen me and the baby, so I need you two to be really good. I need gentle touches and good listening from you both.”
We entered into the office. And in no time, they noticed the waiting room has two sides. Half of the room is set up for patients going in for ultrasounds. The other half is the queue for the OB-GYN. Both have flat screen TVs. Both are always streaming the same Netflix show. Exerting his strong-will, my three-year-old son chose the overcrowded ultrasound side. I acquiesced, knowing he couldn’t go too far.
Immediately, I noticed the whispers.
On top of it, I noticed an elderly woman point at my son and then me. She said something to the person beside her. She shot me a look of clear disapproval. I’ve got this, I thought. Don’t you worry, lady.
In about ten minutes’ time, my son decided to join us on the correct side of the waiting room. No sooner were my wild ones together than they started whispering my name behind my back, pretending the nurse had called me into the examination room. Nice try.
Once in the room, I was asked to remove my Hunter boots to be weighed. My not-so-compliant children decided this was prime time to play their own rendition of musical boots. My daughter’s ended up on her hands, my son’s on his, and mine on my daughter’s feet. Actually, they went all the way up her legs, but you get the idea.
After requesting everyone wear their own boots on their own feet, I found myself with two bouncing beings beside me on the examination table. I was inundated with, “What’s this? Can I touch that? What’s this for? Why? How do you know there’s blood in your body? What’s blood pressure?”
The nurse looked at me with appreciation, “You’ve got your hands full.”
I left feeling like every inch of me had gone into all of the dynamism that unfolded over the half hour. My kids did not stay still at all.My kids aren't obedient. Here's why I know that's okay. #positiveparenting #parenting Click To Tweet
This whole endeavour had me thinking about my parenting and the fact that my kids aren’t obedient.
My parenting does not consist of commanding. And as such, my kids don’t obey. They bounce, question, voice their opinions and explore. If the era of “kids should be seen and not heard” witnessed my parenting and my kids’ behaviour, they would be aghast. But there are several reasons I’m confident in this approach.
Obedience is defined as “complying or willing to comply with orders or requests; submissive to another’s will.”
Aside from the overall health and safety of my children, my two biggest goals as a parent are that I raise kids that have high moral reasoning and can think for themselves. I cannot raise my children with these values by punishing them when they don’t conform. Moreover, “training” my kids to act a certain way or demanding compliance even without punishment won’t work.
Obedient children grow into obedient adults. They’re less likely to stand up for themselves, more likely to be taken advantage of. They’re also capable of simply following orders without question, without taking responsibility for their actions. – Dr. Laura Markham
Kids from authoritarian [strict, punitive] families may be relatively well-behaved. But they also tend to be less resourceful, have poorer social skills, and lower self-esteem. Compared with kids from authoritative households, kids exposed to authoritarian discipline may also achieve less at school. – Dr Gwen Dewar
As a result, I want my children to have internalised moral reasoning. Demanding adherence to rules does not produce adults with high moral reasoning. In fact, it does the opposite. In a very extreme example, one researcher found that members of the Third Reich in Nazi Germany were from families that put a high emphasis on obedience.
So, instead of running an authoritarian household, I understand that disciplining my children is a process. And, I continue to encourage their creativity. I answer their neverending questions. When they question my authority on something, I get down to their level, acknowledge their concern, and explain as simply as possible why a given expectation exists. If they fail to comply, I work to scaffold their behaviour understanding that self-regulation and good behaviour is difficult for little kids.
Though it doesn’t yield immediately well-behaved, obedient kids, I am confident that my very animated children are on the right track.