My kids aren’t obedient because I don’t expect them to be. And there’s good reason for this. Find out why obedient kids should not be a goal of parenting.
As we entered into my OB-GYN’s office, we may as well have been a three-ringed-circus.
At eight months pregnant, I was so big my waddle was unmistakable. If my oversized belly didn’t turn heads, then my bouncy three-year-old and four-year-old companions certainly did.
I had anticipated this
In the car on the way to the obstetrician’s office, I preempted my kids.
“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.”
Earnestly they agreed.
Once in the office, it only took mere seconds before my son noticed the waiting room had 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 were streaming the same Netflix show. Naturally, my strong-willed three-year-old son chose the overcrowded ultrasound side. I acquiesced, knowing he couldn’t go too far or do too much damage sitting in a chair on the other side of the room.
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.
It only continued from there…
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 removed 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.”
[bctt tweet=”My kids aren’t obedient. Here’s why I know that’s okay. #positiveparenting #parenting” username=”parentfromheart”]
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.
Parenting is a process
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.
I don’t see obedience as a big bad wolf. I do want obedient children, but in a sense where they comply with a request because they know I am the parent and I am in charge of their well-being. With that being said, I parent in a way that my son is responsible for his actions and is aware of consequences. Responsibly is an important part of growing up. I like very much what Rebekah said, ultimately we all just want the best for our children either way.
And that’s where the definition of obedience comes into play. Obedience means submitting. One of the differentiating factors between authoritarian and authoritative parents is requiring obedience versus instilling values.
I agree with you. Obedience is very important especially for children. They need their parents guidance. We should teach our children to obey and here is the critical thinking part they should understand why we require their obedience. Also obedience to parents teaches children to respect their parents authority and their role. Children also learn self-control. They also learn to trust their parents. We do not expect kids to obey blindly but because they KNOW we have the best interests for them. When children know this and they trust you, they willingly and gladly obey. Obviously kids will be kids and sometimes there are times when they don’t. I talk to my kids about obedience and to think about good obedience vs bad obedience. We obey good and we don’t obey bad.
Millie thanks for weighing in on your opinion on obedience. I feel like you missed the entire point of the article, but I appreciate your thoughts nonetheless.
I expect my children to act like children but I also expect them to obey myself, my husband, and those who are in authority over them, ie grandparents, and certain aunts and uncles in some situations. Because I expect my children to obey does NOT mean that I think they should be mats to be trampled upon or walked over. They know that they may refuse to do what is asked, demanded sometimes, but they also have to be willing to face the consequences for their decisions. They have also been taught, and we are teaching them still, when we expect them to refuse ie if someone asks them to take off their clothes, to do something that they know is wrong, to hide something from parents etc.
If I am reading this article correctly I think we are saying the same thing but instead of saying that I’m fine with children not obeying I would rather say I am fine with children being children- busy, curious, ready to make their minds known, that they know who they are to honor, respect, and obey as elders or as those in authority, and that they know they do not have to live up to the expectations or ideas of society.
I understand your point Rebekah and we are largely saying the same thing. The definition of obedience includes the line, “to submit to another’s will.” Our kids understand we are the authority. They have to ask permission to go outside, have a treat, watch a show, etc. They understand that we discipline them when they’re made a bad choice. They have to speak to us respectfully as we do them. But, we don’t demand respect. We don’t parent with a heavy hand or in an authoritarian way. I really appreciate you reading and for your comment <3
In my line of work the word “compliance” is often used. Whenever I can I will rewrite the goal to use the word responsive rather than compliant. I don’t want to raise or educate compliant, obedient children. I want responsive, respectful children. You are spot on with this article.
Love your perspective SO much, Shelah. In our school system too, I know they talk about compliance versus obedience. And how compliance can be measured as somewhat or full blown. Thanks so much for reading.
Joanna @ Motherhood and Merlot says
I feel like this is the difference between authoritative and authoritarian parenting and permissive… you have to meet your kids in the middle! You can’t expect them to be afraid of you in order to obey, and people can’t expect kids to be perfect little robots all of the time. That’s just silly. As long as they’re respectful, that is a win for me.
Couldn’t agree with you more.
I call it being agreeable and respectable. I like my son’s independence and sass but he needs to know that he has to assert himself in a respectable way that leaves everyone in an agreeable state and not in a state of tantrums. Easier said than done sometimes!
That’s exactly it. It is a balance to raise respectable kids who understand the value of respect and why standards and roles exist. Thanks so much for reading.
I love this. From the mother of a strong willed 3 year old, thank you. One of my favorite (and yet most frustrating) things she does is when she is told to stop doing something because of xyz she will then ask what the consequence is if she continues. I tell her and then she stops to consider if it is worth it. Sure my life would be easier if she just said, “okay mommy” and stopped but what would she learn? I love that she takes the time to consider the consequences of her actions. This is such an important thing for children to learn so they can make smart decisions in the future.
Thank you for this article. I have to say that sometimes, more often than not, i find myself struggling with my very strong willed 3year old. A lot of the times i find myself in a vertual headlock with my baby girl, because she simply did not do what i asked. I was trying to make her obey my demands. She would question me as to why,i would answer her, she would question me again and again and it repeats until i simply lose it. Or she would completely ignore my requests and continue doing what she does. But maybe what i need is not trying to mold her into a very compliant robot, but a very independent and headstrong girl. Maybe what i should have been doing is encouraging her individuality her curiosity and even let her make the mistake .. just so that she goes through that learning process. Because sometimes we forget that we were once kids too..who made a tonne of mistakes and learned valuable lessons from them. Because our kids are human too, and still very little but certainly very much individuals who need to make their very own mistakes to learn..At the same time needing us to gently remind even if it means a thousand times over and loving them unconditionally. But its not just making mistakes either..It’s letting them live..To muck around, have fun and be a kid too.. just because.
Thank you so much for your comment. I understand the struggle all too well. It isn’t easy. But you’re right, an independent, headstrong girl is something to be proud of <3