I am not raising obedient children…

by Kelly Bartlett on May 13, 2011

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…nor do I want to.  Not that I would rather have disobedient kids, but actually…that’s closer to the truth.  What? (You say.)  What crazy parent would want this?

To me, the word “obedient” has such a negative connotation when used in reference to raising children; it literally means to obey.  As in, orders.  Is that what parenting is?  Ordering our children through their youth?  I guess it would be nice if my kids followed my orders just because I said so.  Put your toys away.  Eat this food.  Find new friends.  Date this person, not that person.  Take this job, not that one.  Have your first child by this date.  Buy a house at this random location on the map, just because I said so.  My point is that if we are teaching our kids to be “obedient,” at what point do we stop ordering them around?  And what if there’s a strong reason not to obey someone’s order?  A “good child (one who is taught to be obedient) might not have the forethought to see a situation through.

I don’t want children who obey without hesitation.  I want children who can think for themselves, recognize and listen to their feelings and instincts and respond appropriately.  I guess what I mean when I say I’d rather my kids be “dis”obedient is really more like be deliberate.  I want my kids to think about what they’re doing; assess the situations they’re in and make internally motivated decisions.  I don’t want them to do things just because I said so.  Though I know that with the number and types of interactions I have with my kids at their current ages of 4 and 6 years old, doing things because I said so would certainly be nice sometimes.  All of the questioning, reasoning, arguing and explaining I hear after a simple request does get time-consuming and tiring.

But I appreciate the thought my kids put into their explanations to not do something I ask.  Raising non-obedient kids will become very important in several years when they are out alone–maybe with friends or maybe truly on their own, in either case, without parents–and must evaluate an emotionally or physically risky situation.  They need to be able to recognize their feelings, appreciate the significance of those feelings, and trust their instincts to make a considerate and educated decision; a fitting decision.  Not an obedient decision.

Getting out of the mindset that children need to obey parents “because we say so” and, instead, developing a mutually respectful relationship that inspires independent thinking will be hugely beneficial for my kids and our family in about 10 years.  As aggravating as some situations at this point in time, I will gladly take this challenge on now rather than later.



Editor’s Note: Attachment Parenting International is a non-sectarian organization and therefore we don’t take positions on religious views. However, I do encourage everyone to be respectful of one another as they post their own personal views. The world is full of a variety of viewpoints and with respectful and open communication we can all learn from one another, which ultimately allows us to all uphold a compassionate, respectful response to our children.

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Kelly Bartlett (35 Posts)

Kelly Bartlett is the author of "Encouraging Words For Kids" and "Help! My Child is Addicted to Screens (Yikes! So Am I.)" She is an API leader and Certified Positive Discipline Educator in Portland Oregon.


{ 185 comments… read them below or add one }

Michelle May 15, 2011 at 9:26 pm

You just gave me my next blog post. Thanks.

Michelle
Promoter of Gentle Parenting not “NO parenting” which is what I see more and more in the AP community. It breaks my heart.

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lyla May 18, 2011 at 11:10 am

oops hit enter too early.

it’s easy to misinterpret research. but this article, and this comment thread, is about *obedience* and many people suggested that children whose parents didn’t expect obedience were “the kids nobody wanted at the park” or would be running around at restaurants pell mell. i repeat – obedience is not the only path toward socially acceptable behavior! that’s been my main point all along, in addition to suggesting that that particular path can have some detrimental side effects down the road, which several of us who have teens and grown children have been trying to illuminate.

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Becky S. May 15, 2011 at 10:05 pm

Kelly, thank you for posting this honest article! I agree. This is the new way of parenting, and it will take many generations to have it be mainstream, but it is where we NEED to go for the health of our children, communities and world. Thank you for being a brave voice and speaking up!

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MyFeminineMind May 15, 2011 at 10:54 pm

Great post! I think one of the most important lessons we can teach our kids is that they have dignity and are worthy of respect, and we teach them this by speaking to them with respect of course and honoring their free will. My relationship with my children is so much better and our home is so much more peaceful since I stopped focusing on obedience and started focusing on treating them with the same respect and consideration with which I would like others to treat me. I have found that this has actually increased their willingness to do what I ask, because, like me, they are happy to help out when they feel respected and appreciated.

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Amy May 16, 2011 at 2:44 am

Ahhh, the good old kid in the street argument. And the obedient to God line. Say what you will, but there will never be any man getting into my children’s pants because “God” wants him to be there. Nor will they be abused by any adult because “Grownups know best”. The biggest person doesn’t always get to “win” a conflict, such as whether a certain kind of touching is appropriate, by default because they’re the grown-up. If you think this stuff doesn’t really happen, or doesn’t happen that often, or certainly wouldn’t happen in your church, you’re swilling more than your share of the communion wine, sister. Been there, done that, and sure as shootin won’t let it happen to my children.

Balance, people. It’s all about balance. She’s not saying “let the kid do whatever they want”, she’s saying punishment as the sole means of motivation is typically damaging and leads to a less healthy relationship with your kids.

You can’t argue that children are too young to reason and must therefore obey you, and then say they’ll behave well because they’re going to consider a punishment before they behave and weigh whether it’s worth it or not. You’ve just argued “They must listen to me because they CAN’t reason, and they’ll obey what I say because they CAN reason”. Makes no sense.

When you’ve got an infant, you put safety covers in the sockets. You don’t tell them no and expect them to listen. When they’re eight, you don’t keep safety covers in the sockets; you tell them it’s dangerous to stick their fingers in there. Expand the concept. Arrange their lives as much as you can so that it’s developmentally appropriate. Adjust your behavior until they are old enough to adjust theirs.

As for the GD kid in the street argument: hold your kid’s hand. Tried and true method- mothers have been swearing by it for ages. Works really well.

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Cindy Montejo May 16, 2011 at 8:58 am

My first post earlier seems to have stired up commotion.

Permissive parents is the term child development researchers use for Attached Parents. Many of you won’t believe this, but research consistantly shows permissive parenting often results in children who rank low in happiness and self-regulation. These children are more likely to experience problems with authority and tend to perform poorly in school (not becasue they lack intelligence, but becasue schools are built around enforcing certain behaviors so that all children can learn). Many of you may want to consider homeschooling. I taught at Montessori schools, and even they have rules.

I’m very sad to see so many people reacting with anger over well documented research. Many of you do not seem educated in child development and seem very inexperienced with children. Please read the following from New York University Child Study Center and consider it. You can choose to chalk it up as a bunch of hogwash, of course.

As a long time teacher (and Montessori enthusiast), parent of many (including a 12 month old), a child development expert, and as child herself raised on a commune from hippie parents, I ask you to consider research as your education, not blogs about personal style.

http://www.aboutourkids.org/articles/parenting_styleschildren039s_temperaments_match

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Emily May 16, 2011 at 10:49 am

This is ridiculous! Why is it so hard for people to understand that there are more than two choices – authoritarian and permissive parenting are BOTH harmful to children. SO MANY people on here have made it clear OVER and OVER that we are NOT talking about being permissive AT ALL, we are NOT suggesting letting kids do whatever they want, or NON-parenting. There is something else in the middle. I know it’s hard for people to wrap their brains around this at first, but it is very real, and works! Being non-punitive and non-coercive and teaching problem solving and conflict resolution instead takes a LOT of hard work and creativity, and believe me most of the people practicing it have done a lot of studying and research about the long-term effects of punishments and rewards, and know about child development, etc. Not really sure what homeschooling has to do with it at all. I am also an educator, very familiar with Montessori education and other philosophies, and found that my children have succeeded and adjusted to school easily because they were NOT taught to blindly obey. They understand that some of the rules at school are stupid, and that we choose to follow them if we want the benefits that come with attending school. That said, success in school is NOT our main goal. Many parents focus on future success in the academic or business world, and totally neglect guiding their children emotionally so that they can have healthy relationships, and inner happiness. I believe that knowing how to solve problems creatively and having interpersonal communication skills will be a HUGE factor in the future, and I am very confident my children possess those skills.

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val May 16, 2011 at 2:11 pm

I think what she meant with the homeschooling comment is that IF it were a “permissive” style of parenting, those children would have a harder time in school because they would be thrown into a system FULL of rules and expectations that would be completely new for them. I agree. I think it would be a nightmare! But see my comment below…I don’t think that is the case here…

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Emily May 16, 2011 at 6:19 pm

One of my children was homeschooled until the age of 10, just because we wanted to – I think homeschooling is a wonderful form of education – it frees one’s time to pursue interests and meet people and get life experience that isn’t available in a classroom setting. When my son decided to attend school, he went into 5th grade and very much enjoyed it. He was a model student, and couldn’t understand why some of the other kids had such a hard time listening or doing the right thing. He took the standardized tests that year, and did better than most of the kids in his class. He loved school, mainly because he was there by choice, but also because he had a strong foundation of NOT being controlled and coerced all day long, and was able to accept that as part of the whole package. This argument seems a little like the one that anti-AP people often pose – “if you hold that baby all the time, he’ll never learn to walk” or “if you let the baby sleep in your bed, he’ll never leave and still want to be there when he’s a teenager!”. The key is to fill up their cups early on with good connecting trusting experiences, and that in turn helps them more easily accept life’s limits and rules. Some people think that if kids don’t go to Kindergarten they won’t learn to stand in line! Can you see how ridiculous this is? My kids have been standing in line with their parents since infancy, at the grocery store, at the bank, etc. they don’t need more practice at this basic skill! How hard is it to follow orders? It’s pretty easy, especially when deemed necessary, and especially when you don’t have to do it ALL the time. I have a feeling that kids who aren’t made to blindly obey will not be the one’s working for others, however, they are much more likely to be the entrepreneurs, the leaders, the self-employed at what they love. The ones who are brought up to obey even when their heart tells them not to, will more likely be the miserable workers who don’t know how exactly to follow their dreams unless someone tells them what to do.

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val May 16, 2011 at 8:22 pm

Oh I’m not saying anything against homeschooling, I was just trying to explain what the previous poster was saying because I felt like I was seeing both sides….I think it’s smart to let kids enter school when they are ready…some don’t learn well in groups…some just aren’t socially ready…I’m so all for that. :)

Mariana Convery August 20, 2013 at 5:06 pm

My thoughts exactly, Emily. Obedience creates good workers, the bees. Open communication with children, positive reinforcement leads to autonomy, self-worth and as you said, the entrepreneurs to help push the human race forward!

Becky S. May 16, 2011 at 5:02 pm

Absolutely… interpersonal communication and creative, non-reactive problem solving as well as self-control and the absolute certainty that a solution can be found that is pleasing to all WITHOUT harming anyone or threatening anyone is the biggest factor of all in parenting, life, friendships, love etc. All of the other academics will unfold as they will given the above positive environment. We do not, in any way, do our children, ourselves or our communities any service in solving our children’s problems for them and ordering them to do certain things – even brush their teeth. “We can do no great things, only small things with great love”. It takes a LOT of work, it takes a LOT of self-awareness as a parent, it is draining, but it is simply the way that we all must begin to treat our children. There’s actually ‘research’ out there that says spanking is good for kids – what a joke!!!

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Cindy Montejo May 16, 2011 at 7:32 pm

Yes, there are more than two choices as it clearly states authoritative is moderate. I’m not sure if you missed that? I, as well as most other child development experts, agree that parents who set limits and rely on natural consequences for children to learn from making their own mistakes are best. “Authoritative parents explain why rules are important and why they must be followed. They reason with their children and consider the children’s point of view even though they might not agree. They are firm, with kindness, warmth and love. They set high standards and encourage children to be independent.”
They have rules and set limits, even when a child may disagree, but they are thoughtful, kind and give thorough explanations.

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Olivia December 29, 2011 at 8:18 am

I would be happy if those that considered themselves “child development expert” stopped patronising and minimising the voices of other parents. All parents are experts on their own children. It disturbs me that the plethora of self-appointed or so-called parenting “experts” has a knock-on effect on parents, in that they can end up minimising their own expertise and knowledge, along with instinct and inner voice. Instinct and inner voice are significant when it comes to parenting (any anything else) I would argue. We may consider “research” but there is absolutely nothing wrong with not being bound by it (not least because a lot of it, such as behaviourism, is fairly dubious to my mind anyway).

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val May 16, 2011 at 2:09 pm

I agree with you….BUT I don’t know that the style the author refers to would be labeled “permissive parenting”. Using a “positive discipline” parenting approach is a FORM of discipline and training children…just not in the traditional authoritarian way. I agree that a true “permissive parenting” approach is, dare I say, irresponsible and harmful but that is not what is advocated by this author. If you see my other comments I am obviously not 100% on board with how she worded things and expressed herself but I have read on her blog and feel I have a decent look into her parenting style and it’s NOT permissive. Just you asked others to consider research as your education….I’d ask you to take a deeper look into what the author is actually expressing (or trying to).

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Cindy Montejo May 16, 2011 at 7:49 pm

Val, I think you may have a point, but then again, permissive parents are described as not setting limits… “and allow children to set their own rules and schedules and activities. They do not make demands about behavior as authoritarian or authoritative parents do.” I thnk it’s up to the author to decide what she would describe herself as… I do still believe though that several others who responded as VERY permissive.

I sit on the board of the Child Placement Review Board in my state. This is an appointment made by the governor and it is my job to asses the placement of children in “the system” (foster care or youths who have been adjudicated and are in the custody of the state). In many cases we recommend that judges terminate perental rights because of cases of abuse and neglect. My job is ALWAYS to look out for the best interest of the child. A child placed in a home of loving parents who do not make them brush their teeth (as some have stated), is not in the best interest of the child. Would a parent have a child taken because they don’t enforce teeth brushing? Only if it were an extreme case as stated below. But I will say, it’s never JUST that. It’s always along with other hazzards such as not enforcing school attendance or medications.

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val May 16, 2011 at 8:25 pm

Yes you’re right….but from seeing the author’s blog she is actually “certified” in the “positive discipline” method of parenting, which is why I butted in with that. While I was not a fan of this particular article I did read many of her other ones on her blog and actually saw a whole different side and have concluded that it was simply the way the article was written/worded and why it hasn’t come across completely to so many of us.

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Suzette May 16, 2011 at 10:20 am

Brava, Cindy! I wholeheartedly agree with your reply to this ‘free-range’ parenting style post, and more so because you provide the research to back up your opinion. It’s these same kids we all dread seeing on the playground or in public settings because they don’t listen to their parents and are misbehaved little tirants.

I already have a son in college, and the other is two years shy of leaving the nest. Free-range parenting turns to permissive parenting when these same parents are the ones saying it’s Okay if their kids drink in high school because they are going to do it anyway.

I relied heavily on the ‘because I say so’ style of parenting and found solace in books like Dr. Rosemond’s, “Six-Point Plan For Raising Healthy, Happy Children”. I am bilingual and read it in Spanish. Guess what the translated title of this book is? “Because I Said So.” Lol!

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Christine May 16, 2011 at 11:12 am

Ah. AP extremism at it’s best. Sorry. When I am raising kids to be thrown out into society, I need to teach them, not be their friend.

I know a family, who’s first child by the age of 4 had 17 cavities. I’m not exaggerating. When I spoke with this mother, she though it would be best for her son to learn the consequences of his actions by experience, rather than forcing him to do what SHE would want (for him to brush his teeth twice daily). She also allowed him to eat whatever careless choice he made, even if it meant chocolate chip waffles for dinner every night. He would learn, she thought, that bad food choices would make him sick to his stomach and eventually he’d learn to eat right.

Absurd.

In my house, I might be a mean mother, but when it comes to brushing teeth, you WILL do it because I say, even if you don’t want to, and even if I have to hold you down while you scream your head off. Some things are not optional, and you will learn that before you leave this house! Same with chores. No choice. You will be obeying me when I tell you to help with your baby brother, or set the table. I will not gently and patiently let you explore your every childhood whim. I don’t have time.

I will give you the most healthy pregnancy while you’re inside of me, a gentle home birth, I will nurse you beyond age 2. I will wear you close to my heart for years in a wrap and I will do all the wonderful things my instinct tells me are right, but no way, no how do I believe in this wishy-washy parenting style described in this article. I can’t stand to read things like this!

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Cindy Montejo May 16, 2011 at 8:03 pm

Please read my comment above… after Val. I referenced your anecdote.

I consider myself an authoritative parent and have many things in common with attached parenting styles, but with differences in some situations. I wear my baby, don’t believe in letting them “cry it out” when they are infants, I breastfeed FOREVER (it seems like) and I offer many choices and discussions with my children.

I’m guesssing the author may call herself a mix between the permissive and authoritative parent, I don’t know… but I wouldn’t say it’s total hogwash either. I believe she wants to raise a healthy well adjusted child, but is struggling with the pressures society puts on her child and her…

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Susan Cowger May 17, 2011 at 11:12 am

Agree. Children first learn to obey. As an adult this is an essential skill in the extreme. Choice is a privilege given as the child demonstrates responsibility. A process. A skill that is based initially on being able to obey. How can you act responsibly if you have not learned to obey first? Parenting involves metering out the freedom to make decisions (an thus accept the consequences of actions) in a deliberate and intentional way. This is not mean it is loving. It is based on self control. Self control is learned through obedience.Delayed gratification is learned through obedience. Want those? Start with obedience.

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val May 17, 2011 at 11:27 am

Susan, where’s the “like” button? :)

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Jenny May 17, 2011 at 1:06 pm

Responsibility has little to do with obedience. So, how can a person be responsible without learning how to obey? Responsibility has to do with integrity and morals and choices about those things. If a child can choose between right and wrong with the help from their parents, then each time they have a choice, they can make better and better choices.

Obedience, and freedom to make choices meted out by another isn’t at all about real choices based on integrity and morals. It’s choices based on what mom or dad wants in that moment and whether the child is willing to comply with those choices within that parameter. It has little to do with real choices and more to do with parental control over choices.

Self control is not something that a parent can instill into a child, it’s an intrinsically motivated thing based on trial and error and choices. What looks like self control when a child obeys, is that child choosing to do what mom or dad wants or face the consequences that mom or dad metes out. It has NOTHING to do with that child’s own self control over their own mind and body.

There are good and logical reasons for self control and delayed gratification. If an individual person, child included, can discover the subtle nuances of this when they are young, they will understand it to the core when they are older. It isn’t learned through obedience, it is learned through trial and error and understanding. It isn’t something that a bigger older person can force a smaller younger person to know. Just because it “looks” like a child is practicing self control and delayed gratification outwardly, does not mean they understand it conceptually.

Conceptual understanding comes with trial and error and choices.

Obedience is NOT about choices, it’s about following the will of another.

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val May 17, 2011 at 1:21 pm

Scenario #1: Let’s say your 3 year old is playing at the park with a few other little ones. You are sitting on a nearby bench nursing the baby. You see said 3 year old picking up a handful of rocks and about to throw them into the face of another child. There is no time to run over there and get your hands in the situation – you have a baby on the boob! What do you do? If you have not taught your child to obey what good does calling their name and expecting them to come over do? What good does it do to ask them to put down the handful of rocks? Your child will make a decision in a split second and out of curiosity wants to see what happens when the rocks fly. At the expense of another child. I know for me I would call their name, ask them to put down the rocks and call them over to me. After they obeyed this request I would explain to them why we don’t throw rocks and I would ensure that either they understand, not through barking orders or implying a consequence but simply “So can you tell mommy why we don’t throw rocks? What might happen? How might that feel?” and then if I am satisfied I would send them back to play. If I am not satisfied and do not feel like they are getting it then it’s time to find another place to play…away from the rocks. Thus, a natural consequence. I’m not yelling at my child nor am I making a big deal out of what just almost happened. I am simply ensuring the safety of another child and hoping my child realizes that if he/she wants to play in that area, rocks cannot be thrown. Once that happens whether it’s 5 minutes later or weeks later, we could return to play there but they would understand the rule of no throwing rocks, lest they once again would not play in that area.

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Emily May 17, 2011 at 2:05 pm

It seems we are more on the same page than we think. I would never let my 3 year old throw rocks near other children. I have been known to run over even with a babe on breast and help a kid stop something that could hurt something or someone. I know that young children don’t want to hurt others, and I come from that positive assumption. I might even shout “stop!” and, because my kids don’t hear that all the time from me, I think they are much more apt to know that it’s serious. I see myself as being their surrogate frontal lobe in the various ways theirs isn’t yet developed. But, I wouldn’t lecture or ask them to repeat back to me why it’s wrong to throw rocks, etc. afterwards because it wouldn’t have a positive effect, and may in fact have a negative one (shaming) if it’s an impulse they have no control over anyway. And, assuming positive intent, they simply need a reminder to “be careful” or “pay attention” most of the time, and I feel that my setting the limit physically or verbally in a matter-of-fact way is teaching in itself. And yes, one needs to remind kids over and over, throughout the younger years, before their brains develop. Punishments/consequences on top of limit-setting do not teach, though, and I believe actually inhibit optimal brain development and learning. Moving away from where rocks are can be another strategy, as long as it’s not shaming/blaming – in fact I would say to stay away from the rock area in the first place if you know your kid likes to throw rocks and you will be distracted with caring for an infant. Also, make sure other needs are met – food, sleep, attention, etc. Why is the kid throwing rocks? Much of what connected parenting is about is thinking about the underlying needs behind misbehavior – perhaps it’s just developmental/exploration, but maybe there is something else going on that needs to be addressed. When you think of misbehavior as a way to meet needs it increases the level of compassion in your interactions, and I’ve found that to be beneficial overall – it increases the amount of natural obedience that you get! I recognize that having kids obey is desirable in that it’s convenient and makes life seem easier in the short term. I just believe, and have seen in my family and clients’ families, that the harder work of understanding developmental norms, assuming positive intent, and collaborative problem-solving really gives the big-time pay-off in the longer term – for the child’s personal success in the world, how they feel about themselves, and the parent-child relationship. When there is trust and mutual respect, parenting is easier, kids are more cooperative and follow the natural leader – the parent. I imagine what it must feel like to be a child who is constantly being lectured or punished about things I have little to no control over – what often happens is that those kids either seek revenge, feel bad about themselves, lie, or sneak. Which further perpetuates the myth that children or teens are inherently bad and need to be trained by us to be good.

val May 17, 2011 at 3:08 pm

For us the explanation as why we don’t throw rocks and helping them to truly understand is where the learning comes from. “Paying attention ” and “being careful” mean nothing unless they know the underlying reason. I can’t tell you how many people are impressed with the amount of understanding my children possess about situations. They are all VERY mature for their age and very respectful. They understand the whys behind the no’s and they obey the rules (most of the time, they’re kids, they try to push limits from time to time like anyone else). And you’re right, if I knew my child liked to throw rocks, of course I wouldn’t bring them into that area while I am distracted. And of course if they are hot, tired or hungry, etc they will be more likely to act out.

Another example of a rule that we adhere strongly to in our house is where food is eaten. ONLY at the kitchen table. I have a 2 year old that is severly allergic to dairy and while I try not to buy too many items containing dairy, there are snacks my other kids like that I do buy for them. I expect them to obey when I tell them to sit down at the table with their food. This is just another example of why I feel that rules and obedience are important and work very well for us. Like I said in another post I believe that obedience is the end result and can stem from fear, respect, values and morals, expectation of positive rewards, avoidance of negative consequences. Just because children “obey” does not mean orders are being barked out and this is what I am trying to demonstrate. That a house with rules in place PROTECTS. What kind of mother would I be to my son if I allowed my older children to eat anywhere they pleased and then he stumbles upon a crumb of something and doesn’t know any better? Accidents happen. We avoid them with rules. And I expect my children to obey them. They know WHY we have rules….I explain this in a way they can understand. If they break a rule they are forgiven if it was merely forgotten or a mishap. If they break a rule out of pure rebellion because they are angry then there will be a consequence. And then we will address the underlying issue and how we can better deal with it. And you know what? They get it. It’s real life. It’s preparing them for life outside of our home. It’s setting them up for success. I understand we may not always see eye to eye and I think that for the most part our parenting styles are very very similar but I come back to the foundation of obedience, rules, respect and love.

Cindy Montejo May 18, 2011 at 1:16 am

I agree that “be careful” isn’t quite as productive as, ” throwing rocks hurts, please don’t throw rocks while you are on the playground.”

This is why, when my 12 month old hits her 9 year old sister, I say, ” please use gentle hands” and avoid saying, “be nice.” Nice is ambiguous. When I catch her being gentle, which is more often, I say, “I like the you are using gentle hands.”

Susan Cowger May 17, 2011 at 11:29 pm

Jenny, Obedience is a choice. Obedience is being under the authority of another. This is different than being under the will of another.

Learning to be obedient is learning how to be under the authority of another. Our society is built on hierarchical authority. A parent is the first authority a child is under. Should an employee obey the wishes of his boss? The premise is first learned by obeying parents.

Denial of self is self control. Obedience is denial of self. Obedience is self control.

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Jenny May 18, 2011 at 12:30 pm

Sure, obeying another can be a form of self control. The underlying motivation is the part that I’m more concerned with. If the underlying motivation is to do as someone else says, that person will learn to rely on others to do and be. Right up until that person reaches an age of questioning everything. At that point, they will either continue to do as they are told, often with resentment, or they will not. Once that little obedient 4 yr old is 14 and sometimes bigger and stronger than mom or dad, they will do what they like.

I’ve seen many many obedient teens behave perfectly while around adults, and as soon as they are away do whatever they feel like doing. It’s sneaky and troublesome.

The teens I know that haven’t been raised to be obedient, who have been helped to make good choices without inherent expectations to obey don’t do that dualistic naughty/nice thing. They have no reason to. They make thoughtful choices because they’ve been allowed to make thoughtful choices based on real things, meaningful to them, along the way, not simply because mom or dad says so.

I’ve seen kids run away from home because of expectations of obedience. Not all kids are going to do that of course. Underneath, I’ve never met a teen that has said they love to obey their parents simply because they’re parents expect it. I’ve met some that choose to do what is right because they respect their parents. That respect wasn’t born out of obedience. Kids learn respect by being respected.

It’s not about obedience, it has much more to do with respect. If parents can find ways to respect their children and their choices and help them make good choices, they will have children that grow up to respect them.

A really good book to read is: Parent/Teen Breakthrough, The Relationship Approach.

I’m really glad that I read that when my first child was young! It made such a huge difference in my world! All the ideas in that book can be used when a child is much younger, so you never ever deal with rebellious kids or tears and arguments over house work, or lying and sneaky behavior. What a blessing that is!

Nichole August 13, 2011 at 10:09 am

Excellent! Christine,Suzy, Cindy.. Agree whole heartedly! :) Children, are… children. They are not grown ups and they are not born able to make responsible “thoughtful” decisions on their own. That is why they have parents. I believe (and have seen many times) that “foolishness dwells in the heart of a child” – We all know this as parents, we’ve seen our kids do things that have made us wonder “Where on earth did THAT behavior come from!??” O_o. My children need to be obedient, WITHOUT QUESTION, waaay before all the explanations come. My toddler needs to obey my command to “STOP!” in a dangerous situation. Immediately. Without question! It could mean the difference between life and death! I, as their parent, hold a level of understanding that they cannot yet comprehend, so to obey is to survive and thrive for them. I am trying my BEST to raise obedient children! It doesn’t always work, but I’m trying every day! There are times in my life I’ve looked back and thought “Man, my mom KNEW this would happen.. NOW I see it! I should have listened..” lol!

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lyla May 16, 2011 at 12:06 pm

i clicked that link about parenting styles and i must say, i find the examples (the studies too, but the examples are quicker to dissect) pretty ridiculous and not at all reflective of the kind of parenting we are talking about here. here is one example they gave and my comments below:

“Parenting styles and some daily dilemmas

Annie, aged 4, has grabbed a ball from Luisa, another child.
Strict parent: You come back right this minute and give that ball back to Luisa immediately.
Moderate parent: The ball belongs to Luisa. I know you want to play with it, but why don’t you talk it over with her and try and work out a system to take turns?
Permissive parent, believing that Annie should be allowed to express her impulses freely, doesn’t suggest a solution and does not use the opportunity to help her solve a problem.”

connected, partnership parenting is not even remotely similar to what’s described here as “permissive” parenting. it’s actually probably closest to the example given for authoritative parenting, even though i dislike that term and would phrase the suggestion to problem solve differently. the “trichotomy” of authoritarian/authoritative/permissive is not nearly deep/detailed enough to actually capture the nuance of what we are discussing. this is quite possibly a *paradigm* shift, not just another style of parenting on a 3 prong spectrum.

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val May 16, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Can you explain in that same scenario what a connected parent might do? I’m truly trying to wrap my mind around it….I’m thinking something like “Annie, whose ball is that? Did you ask her if you could borrow it? How would you feel if someone took one of your toys from you? What do you think you need to say to Luisa?”

Seriously someone chime in here bc my parenting is all over the map and it’s something I’m working on – to be consistent, to be gentle and forgiving and loving, to be strict when needed and oops sorry I do expect my children to *shock* obey. LOL What I wrote would be me on a good parenting day. I’ll be the first to admit that my styles change depending on my mood and I KNOW that is not right!!!!

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Cindy Montejo May 16, 2011 at 8:09 pm

Lyla, yes, the examples are bad ones, and I do agree this discussion goes somewhat deeper, but as a professional who deals with parents and their individual styles everyday, I assure you most parents fall into one category more than another. It’s also true that many parents adopt qualities of all three depending on their mood, their stress levels and their finances.

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lyla May 16, 2011 at 12:08 pm

oh and the “data” on the teen brain is not conclusive, nor is the interpretation of the data – here’s another perspective:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200703/trashing-teens

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Cindy Montejo May 17, 2011 at 7:54 am

Lyla- Great article by psychology today. Thank you for recommending it. I am in complete agreement with the author on most points. One thing the psychologists didn’t take into consideration is the current research on brain development. You are incorrect to say the “data” insn’t conclusive. It is highly dependent on what data you look at. Studies on brains still developing into the teen years are very conclusive as of about 10 years ago.

Brains mature and develop from front to back. Grey matter (or brain connections) increases slowly over time, and finally take it’s final form in the early 20′s. This is why on written tests, teens are capable of performing as well as adults, but can’t seem to make these same decisions as quickly in stressful situations. For instance, on a written driving test, teens perform as well as adults, but when the same teens and adults are given a simulated drving test, the adults outperform the teens with leaps and bounds.

Here is a quick link for information on brain development (I also encourage you to reseach it on your own). It’s endlessly facinating.

http://www.edinformatics.com/news/teenage_brains.htm

another from the NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) gives excellent information:
http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/teenage-brain-a-work-in-progress-fact-sheet/index.shtml

Thank you for taking the time to research for yourself. I think it can only make you a better parent.

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lyla May 16, 2011 at 1:36 pm

seriously? is nobody reading the posts by me, by emily, by several others? the responses are as if you are not even bothering to read what we are saying. nobody here is endorsing tyrannical behavior on the playground nor laissez faire parenting (throwing one’s hands up about important issues)! nobody here is advocating “letting kids drink because they will anyhow” – we are MUCH more thoughtful, considered, and yes, research based, than that! here is a post about being a kid’s friend: http://lylawolf.blogspot.com/2010/07/youre-their-parent-not-their-friend.html and here is another about alcohol and teens/young adults: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1816475,00.html. please open your minds and absorb what we are saying! this is NOT about neglectful/absentee/giving up parenting! this is a conscious, informed, deeply deliberate approach to parenting and there are thousands of kids now grown or teens, who are the wonderful products of this approach.

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lyla May 16, 2011 at 2:46 pm

my response would be similar to the scenario given for the “authoritative” parent – except i wouldn’t simply suggest they work it out, unless i knew my particular 4 year old was capable of such conflict resolution without assistance (pretty rare).

first, i’d evaluate if the child being grabbed from was unhappy about it. i might even ask her (are you ok with sharing that now? or still using it?) if it was not clear to me from her reaction – the reason i wouldn’t ASSUME it’s not ok is because some kids (my daughter was one) much preferred the company of other kids to any object and couldn’t care less about objects. if i was concerned that my child was learning to grab without asking, i might ask MY child to check in with the other child – “lucy was playing with that, so please check with her to make sure she’s done” or, for a child who tolerates fewer words, i would just ask “lucy were you still using that?”

if lucy wasn’t done, then i’d place my hand on the object in contention, perhaps holding it, if it didn’t mean wrestling it out of my child’s hands, and calmly help them work through the conflict. it often looks like this, with young children:

me: “lucy you were still using that?”

lucy: yes!

me (to my child): lucy is saying she’s not done. would you like her to give it to you when she’s done?

my child: i want it NOW – she IS done!

me: you are really wanting to play with it now. lucy, would you be willing to let ___ play with it for a while right now?

lucy: no! i’m playing with it!

me : you’re not done yet. would you be willing to let ___ know when you are done?

Lucy: yes.

me (to my child): lucy’s not ready for you to play with it. but she will let you know when she’s done and you will get it next, how does that sound?

my child: it will take forever!

me: you’re worried it will be too long of a time for you to wait. lucy, how long do you think you might want to play with that toy?

lucy: 10 minutes

my child: THAT”S TOO LONG!

me: lucy, are you willing to be done sooner?

lucy: ok 3 minutes

my child: NO! five! (more likely with a 2-3 year old than a 4-5 year old, but still sometimes happens!)

a different scenario might be that lucy is unwilling to negotiate, and i offer to help my child wait, and listen to his feelings and empathize. often, while that is happening, once lucy is sure she won’t lose possession until she’s done, all of a sudden she’s done.

here is a pretty good article with steps to conflict resolution: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/peacemeal/201010/3-steps-transform-sibling-conflict-sibling-camaraderie?

the truth is, young children need lots of help solving conflicts. if we approach that need as natural and developmentally appropriate, then we avoid the pitfall of seeing our child, or someone else’s child as “perpetrator” or “victim” which does the conflict resolution process no favor, nor the people being labeled. when children grow up participating in this kind of conflict resolution, they become remarkably adept at young ages, at following these steps themselves.

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Becky S. May 16, 2011 at 5:06 pm

lovely example… it takes a lot of work, but in the end, is so much more pleasant for all involved. I, too, have found that once the child who has been ‘grabbed from’ knows that they can have the toy until they are done, they almost immediately give it up to the other child – every. single. time. It is truely amazing to watch. Now, when my 2 year old is trying to get something from her 5 year old brother, all I need to do is validate that her brother will give it to her as soon as she is done, and he pretty much runs over and gives it to her. Thank you for setting the stage for this very early on in our family through your Connected Parenting classes. I am so appreciative!

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Cindy Montejo May 16, 2011 at 8:16 pm

I would describe your responce as authoritative as well. In truth, if we had this much time and energy in EVERY situation, this would be ideal. Of course, however this is not the case. All of us struggle to fit our version of the ideal parent into the day. For all people though, as I said above, finaces, mood and stress interferes…

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val May 16, 2011 at 8:34 pm

Sounds pretty much like my house on a daily basis. Siblings give LOTS of conflict resolution practice…if you go about it in the right way! I really have learned a lot through all of this conversing and went from “I can’t believe what she’s saying in this article” to actually seeing another side of parenting. In fact it’s one that I do practice on a daily basis but don’t think I have given it much worth or merit. And of course it’s helped me to notice the times that I am simply barking out orders which let’s face it, most everyone does at some point or another. I notice I do it more when I’m running late. I get stressed running behind schedule and I take it out on my kids. That helps NO ONE and then I resort to the very behavior that I try to curb in my kids! Ironic if you think about it. LOL HOWEVER I stll feel that so many are still hung up on what is obeying. I suppose it’s an individual definition because there is blind obedience, there is obedience out of fear, there is obedience based on natural consequences, obedience based on rewards and obedience based on simply what’s right and wrong (a moral system). The fact that many are arguing they don’t want their children to “obey” seems only to be linked they don’t want their children to “blindly obey” or “obey out of fear”. Right? Me either. But I still want obedient children. When I told my daughter tonight that it was time to get ready for bed…..there were no consequences or rewards of yelling. She simply OBEYED. She respected my command and followed through. When she doesn’t I remind her how hard it is for her to wake up in the mornings when she doesn’t go to sleep at a decent hour. She agrees and THEN she obeys based on the natural consequences. I don’t think that obedience implies barking orders….I think that it can….but I don’t that it HAS to. I’d like to think that 90% of my parenting is done in a way that my children understand the reasonable requests and respect me, our family and God enough to follow through. The 10%….well I have some bad days….again, just being honest. A work in progress. As we all are….really.

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val May 16, 2011 at 8:35 pm

LOL I don’t know how to edit but I wrote “rewards of yelling”. Um that should be OF unless you consider yelling a reward. HAHA!

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Becky S. May 16, 2011 at 5:12 pm

Just a thought… to all of you who are reading this blog, but clearly not practicing the uncondional, connected part of Attachment Parenting, I’m wondering if perhaps there is a small part of you that questions what you are doing and wants to do it differently. If so… let this conversation be a catalyst for change. Maybe you still need certain ‘rules’ that you want your children to ‘obey’, but perhaps start with Lyla’s example from above and begin trying to do some more connected, collaborative problem solving together with your kids when they have a conflict. Research, faith, opinions, gut-feelings aside, we are all on this parenting journey together, seeking the best path for us and our families, and it DOES take a village, so I welcome this discussion and the opportunity for change and more connection in our lives with our children, partners, friends and community! This is how I began on my path to connected parenting… and I am far from ‘pure’ in that method, but it does give me more tools in my tool box when it comes to how I interact with my kids (and others, for that matter). So, please, keep the conversation happening. It is good.

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val May 16, 2011 at 8:45 pm

It IS good, I do agree. But I do not agree at all with your insinuation that having rules in place means not being connected with your kids. I am VERY connected with my children and believe 100% boundaries and rules are HEALTHY. This doesn’t mean (see my previous post) that I am “barking orders” or punishing my children for every single little thing. Examples: We have a rule that no one answers the front door without permission when the bell rings. This is for their safety. They understand the reason for the rule. They respect it. They ASK if they can answer the door and if I’m on my way that direction or expecting someone, I tell them yes and thank them for asking. If they run to the door and so much as turn the knob without permission then I am stern with them. I need them to understand that I mean business. But then I re-explain to them why we have that rule in place and ask them questions to be sure they understand. We have a rule of no jumping on mommy’s bed without permission. I don’t want a child falling down while they get too crazy and not paying attention. Again, it’s for their safety and they understand and respect it. If they fail to comply then natural consequence is play time is moved from mommy’s room until I can be sure they will adhere to the rules. No one feels belittled and I have great kids. They respect us as their parents….they do well in school…and they share their dreams and we encourage them. Since my 7 year old was 3 she has talked about being a missionary and a teacher! She has an incredible heart for the poor people to the point she will CRY thinking about it and be moved to do something. It’s funny because we try to do our part when we can but it’s not something she’s been super exposed to but this is her heart. She is so tender and we LOVE to see that in her and encourage it. We help her think of ideas on what can we do as a family to help the poor around us? What can we donate and give away? Where can we go to serve people in need? We bend to watch her thrive. And once our other kids express a passion in an area, we’ll bend with them too. I think the fact they are growing up in a secure home where they understand what is expected of them and can be happy and confident, they will find these interests sooner than others perhaps that are always wondering what might happen if I…..or God forbid something happens. I know we need to keep an eye on our children but I have three….I cannot be in three places at once and if I’m changing one’s diaper and the doorbell rings I need to KNOW that my kids understand our rule so that I don’t have to leave the baby or run after them or yell at them to stop before they get there. See my point?

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Becky S. May 16, 2011 at 10:54 pm

No insinuation at all Val. We have rules in our house too. I was simply meaning that if you are feeling disconnected from your kids, at any point in the day, let connection be your go-to strategy, rather than ‘obedience’ and rules. When I go to ‘you should know ______ and do ____”, we all feel crappy, no matter how calm I state that. If I get on the child’s level, make eye contact, take a deep breath and empathize and if anything needs to happen to change the situation, we all feel better. I’m certainly still working on it too, since I grew up in a house of ‘yellers’ who definitely expected obedience, and I was happy to ‘obey’ to keep the peace. I am still unlearning those habits and probably will be for the rest of my life. We are all learning and changing. Few people were parented in this connected and respectful way 20-30 years ago. We are creating a new path.

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val May 17, 2011 at 7:06 am

Thanks for the clarification Becky. That makes sense. This is where communicating via internet can be so hard….words can only express so much and you never know how the other party will receive it….and won’t find out till the next day. While there were plenty of things I have not agreed with in this overall conversation with every poster…it has been enlightening and like John says below – there is something to be said about so many passionate parents. :) It’s too bad we all couldn’t meet for coffee and further this discussion in person. lol

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John bartlett May 16, 2011 at 5:16 pm

Frankly, as the husband of the author I am excited at the sheer amount of reaction and discussion my wife’s article spurred. It is a great thing to see so much passion and concern about parenting in general and I am sure that all of us can agree that more thought should be put into parenting than is exemplified on a daily basis. Whether you agree with someone or not, we should applaud the efforts of anyone who cares enough about parenting to be passionate. We need more passionate parents in the world!

That said, I feel like clearing a few things up here. First, despite what some suggest, my kids are not little monsters who you would “hate to see in school or on the playground.” Please take the time before hitting the submit button to realize that you are insulting someone’s (in this case my) children. In all instances these comments come from people who have never and are likely to never meet my wife, myself nor my kids…so truthfully, you have no idea what you are talking about. Most parents are willing to at great length brag about their children and while I will spare you all here let me just say that my kids rock! In no way are they the monsters or freewheeling devils portrayed in many of these comments, nor are they godless heathens who believe in no authority other than their own. They are beautiful, kind, loving and secure little people who show others great respect and learned to be careful crossingmthe street not because I demanded it via thunder and lightning but because they trust and love me and know how much I care. Unbelievably…they listen to me.

I cannot and do not speak for my wife but I personally believe that Kelly simply wants other people to know that there ARE alternatives out there. You do not have to trick or fool your kids, you do not have to withhold or dole out your love, you do not have to demand instant and total obedience or compliance and you certainly do not have to hold your screaming kid down forcefully and shove the toothbrush in his or her mouth in order to get them to brush their teeth at night. Despite what one might read in these comments…children are not foolish. They are just young and yes, they need to learn.

But they learn better from someone they trust. Someone who doesn’t demand or order but helps them explore and engage the world around them.

So Kelly and I, we don’t want instant and unthinking obedience. But our kids are not monsters and most of you would likely sit next to me on a park bench and comment on how well behaved and obedient my kids actually are should we meet at a park. A funny thing happens when you realizeyour kids are people…they act like people.

Bravo to all for thinking so hard about our jobs as parents. Everyone here (whether in agreement or not) should be commended for thinking about something so many take for granted.

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Cindy Montejo May 18, 2011 at 1:26 am

Great post and I appreciate your comments. Just for clarification, one commenter said, “Brava Cindy!” Her tone was offensive to me even though she seemed to support what I had said. She indicated that your children act like hooligans and, of course that is not my comment, nor what my comment stood for. Just because that woman said that, please don’t assume I, or any other parent may feel the same way! Thanks.

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Emily May 16, 2011 at 5:34 pm

I’m also grateful for this conversation. I’m amazed at the amount of fear that governs parenting, even attachment parenting. I will say it again, my kids are considerate, compassionate creative problem solving people who trust their parents. They are this way because we are not dictators, we do not punish in any way, instead we take the extra time to address hurts and misunderstandings, meet everyone’s needs, understand development, and work out problems. That is how we are preparing them for the “real world”.
When my now adult child was a teenager, he was at a party where some kids were drinking…he called me and said he was thinking of trying a can of beer, and wanted to know my thoughts. My kids have never lied to me, they don’t sneak and do things I wouldn’t want them to do, they have no reason to. They aren’t good because I said so, but because it feels right. They do things to meet my needs, because they care about me in the way I have demonstrated my care about them. They enjoy helping others and contributing to society, as they feel the real rewards of that in itself. Isn’t that what we all really want for our children? If a life of obeying rules is their future then why should they have to spend their one precious childhood preparing for that? It’s true that permissive parenting is neglectful and harmful, and nobody is recommending that here – it’s just what authoritarian parents use to justify controlling top-down parenting. Again, I will say, I LOVE having teenagers in my home. I have no behavioral problems, no arguments about chores, homework, etc. Our family has strong values about respecting others, property, etc. and because we are close and connected, our children have easily embodied those values. Think short term in that you want your child’s life to be wonderful NOW, and long term in that what do you want your relationship to be like with your child when they are an adult?

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val May 16, 2011 at 8:57 pm

What’s interesting to me is looking at the parenting style of my own mother. She stayed home with us when we were young, home cooked our meals, yadda yadda. She was THERE. She was INVOLVED. And we didn’t have rules. We weren’t punished (I actually remember 2 times my whole life and it was by my dad who I was not close with and it was not a good situation) and she talked to us about our decisions. And yet….despite all of that….as I grew up my house was the one where friends would crash so that we could stay out nearly all night long because I had no curfew….I was the one that didn’t have to sneak out…I could go and hang out at boys houses till dawn if I wanted….and you know what? I DID! To me it was “who cares…my parents don’t so why should I?” It was the EXACT opposite of what you are saying. I remember my mom telling me her reasons for why she preferred me home at a certain hour and it went in one ear and out the other. After all she had invested….I just didn’t care! I wanted to do what I wanted to do and no one was going to stop me! Even when I went to college. The first year we’re talking drinking EVERY NIGHT. I was on a really bad road. And yet, I called and talked to my mom nearly EVERYDAY. Not because she forced me to or I felt like I owed her anything. I enjoyed talking to her. But again, I was raised to make my own decisions and choices and stand by them and I was. I have since cleaned up (quite nice I must say, lol) and changed IMMENSELY and I can’t help but look back and think how different my own would have been had my parents actually followed through on rules and expectations rather than just heart to heart shared them all lovey dovey with me. I feel they always tried to be a friend and totally forgot to parent along the way. :( My husband…totally opposite. Super strict family. And yet he is the entrepenuer….he is the one with the morals and values to stand by….he is the one who walks in complete confidence about who he is and where he’s going in life…and he has a GREAT relationship with both his parents. We see them everyday, they live close and I’m blessed with awesome in laws! I am the one that had to work through insecurity issues….low self esteem….lack of confidence….resulting in perfectionism….many many bouts of depression throughout my life….

So….parenting styles? I don’t know…but I can’t negate our personal experiences here either. Sometimes perhaps it just depends on the child?

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Becky S. May 16, 2011 at 10:57 pm

I am constantly reminding myself that we all just want to be HEARD. If you have a limit, set it respectfully (and ask yourself if it really needs to be a limit; most things are negotiable), then listen to your child’s emotions around it. That’s what I want people to do when I’m upset, not just jump in and FIX my problem. That might get the child to calm down faster, but certainly won’t help in the long run.

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Cindy Montejo May 18, 2011 at 1:34 am

I very much agree with this statement.

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Lauren May 17, 2011 at 2:32 am

I would prefer my children to obey me. It means they are respecting me and honouring me. I’m the mother and I know best so I expect obedience from them.

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Hayley May 17, 2011 at 3:59 am

Unfortunately 2 years olds… 4 year olds… 6 year olds may not actually have the knowledge or experience to make the right decisions and need to ‘obey’ their parent’s commands immediately to get them out of an immediately harmful situation (like crossing a road, getting hit by a car as an example). If a child has never been taught to obey small commands then why should they obey any command given and how are they to know which commands they can choose to obey and which ones are not negotiables? Children need guidance and need to learn to obey parents who have a much larger scope of experience. The idea of a child choosing their future and right from wrong all on their own is a scary prospect indeed! If you have your child’s best interest at heart then they can trust you to help them where they do not have the maturity to make those decisions and obey your leading. And sometimes children just don’t know better than Mum and Dad.

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Cindy Montejo May 17, 2011 at 8:02 am

I spend hours and hours reading about brain development in children. It facinates me to no end! One book in particular is Brain Rules for Babies by John Medina (he isn’t advocating for one type of parenting over another) He is a neuroscientist (sometimes also called a neurobiologist) and happens to have a knack for writting for the average person.

http://www.brainrules.net/brain-rules-for-baby

Also, for a quick glance at brain development through childhood:

http://www.edinformatics.com/news/teenage_brains.htm

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Kim May 17, 2011 at 1:12 pm

For the first time ever, I have to disagree with you on this issue Kelly. I totally respect and understand the ideas behind raising “non-obedient” children, however for us it becomes a biblical issue. The bible clearly states in Colossians 3:20 (and many other verses) ” Children be obedient to your parents in all things for this is well pleasing to the Lord.” We are in charge of our children and need to set rules and boundaries. I am all for my children asking questions and making educated decisions, but at this stage in their young life (4 and 6), they still need my approval. A great example is my daughters soccer class. It is full of 3& 4 yr olds with one teacher. The parents stand by and watch, so you would think that if their children stop listening and obeying their teacher, the parents would step in—but thats not the case. I see so many parents just look the other way when their children don’t obey. They are teaching their children horrible habits and teaching them disrespect. I will have obedient children who understand when it is appropriate to ask questions and go their own way and when it is time to just listen and obey–especially adults like their teachers. We have a saying in our house: “obey all the way, right away, with a happy heart” We respect our children’s thoughts and ideas, however, they also need to respect ours and when we give them all the rope we have nothing to tug them back in the right direction. It scares me to think that there could be a time when it is imperative that my children obey me right away….for example…maybe my daughter is playing in the street and a young teenage driver is speeding down the road playing with his phone. I yell at my daughter to get out of the street, but instead of obeying right away, she begins to tell me why she feels she doesn’t need to and tries to explains her side of the story..well you can see where I am going with this. We as parents need to set the limits and help our children make good decisions, but not by completely ignoring the fact that they still need to obey and respect our ultimate decisions as their parents. Its hard to think of my children in the future when it comes to college professors, or a boss, giving my kids a task or assignment and my child doesn’t do it because they were never taught the importance of it. I love my children enough to teach them the fundamentals of living life with others and respecting those in authority and I believe that is something they learn as they learn to obey.

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lyla May 17, 2011 at 3:05 pm

cindy, while i am glad you are interested in brain research, there are many interpretations of the original data, and there are many limits to the studies that have been done, including population bias (if i recall, most of the teen brain research has been done on american teens, or at least western teens, and therefore a shared cultural and experiential milieu will inherently impact outcome.

epigenetics/social/cultural influences and expectations can profoundly impact brain development/phenotype and i would posit that the jury is NOT in with regards to what the teen brain looks like among teens who have not been raised within traditional western methods.

in addition, the arguments here for consequences, hard fast rules, and obedience are in direct contradiction to the notion that children’s brains are not fully developed yet (the latter i actually agree with) – in the sense that if our children have neurobiological limits as to their ability to exercise impulse control and predictive thinking skills (they do have these limits due to frontal lobe immaturity), then we cannot at the same time expect to be able to “teach” obedience and have that “lesson” override the very same frontal lobe immaturity we are citing as the reason for the need for obedience to begin with! we MUST, as emily says, BE our children’s surrogate frontal lobes while theres naturally mature, creating opportunities for success and peace, within their capabilities. demanding obedience of a 3 year old is like demanding that a 6 month old speak in order to be picked up. we are responsible for meeting our children’s needs and protecting them when they are not capable – and that means getting OFF our butts and being right there. yes, even if we have an infant to nurse at the same time. i have done it, emily’s done it, and you can do it too! or if you can’t, then don’t go to a park with rocks that are an attractive nuisance to many three year olds! :)

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val May 17, 2011 at 3:18 pm

Lyla, part of expecting obedience in certain situations comes from conditioning. Children cannot understand and reason when they are young but they ARE capable of conditioning. Babies demonstrate this as they learn they cry and they get nursed. They cry and they get picked up. Sometimes it’s a true need and sometimes it’s a want and they LEARN to get what they want. They are SMART and we don’t always give them credit for that! Kids are no different. Often it’s repitition until they get it. But eventually, they do. I don’t know if I’m making sense and I’ll be honest that I think I’m about to check out of this conversation. I don’t appreciate being betlittled for my parenting style and what works for my family. I have tried to discuss with respect and ask for others examples of what THEY would do in specific situations. I wanted to see if there were other things that I was not doing in my own style. Instead I’m met with “get off your butt”? I’m sorry but that was uncalled for. You know nothing about me aside from what I have shared, what’s in my heart or anything about my kids and for you to insinuate that I need to get off my butt and parent my kids is insulting. A few posts back I mentioned how enlightening this discussion has been….I should have checked out while I was ahead I guess.

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Cindy Montejo May 18, 2011 at 12:53 am

Lyla- You seem very defensive and that leads me to believe you see me as a threat to your argument. I can’t imagine why you think I had anything to do with Val’s throwing rock scenario and why you were trying to belittle me by saying I’ve never tried to intervene in situations with my child while nursing. Indicating that I need to get off my butt, that my only goal is to get my child to obey by any means necessary is completely against my parenting style.

As for your comments about brain development and it being in contradiction to getting your child to obey, YES! The lightbulb finally went off! You DO need to be there because they do not have the frontal lobe development yet! And YES! This is exactly why I offered the research to begin with. Emily was absolutely correct in saying we need to be their frontal lobe for them! I think you need to go back and reread everything I stand for because you’ve put words into my mouth.

I’m glad you’ve finally seem to understand the research, even though you claim you don’t agree, but do agree with the frontal lobe being underdeveloped… which is what the research says…

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lyla May 17, 2011 at 3:14 pm

i would say that in the place of your “obedience and rules” my family has “principles” – respect and love are principles, for instance. as is safety.

if i had a child who was allergic to something my other children liked, i’d likely talk with them about how to address it. my children are creative and compassionate, and i imagine they’d offer to eat anything with dairy in it at the table, while being more free with other foods for instance. alternatively, they might easily agree to have no dairy in the house at all, and save dairy snacks for the park or elsewhere.

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val May 17, 2011 at 3:22 pm

Yes that would work if you children were old enough to think through those situations.

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Cindy Montejo May 18, 2011 at 1:01 am

So Val, you have obedience and rules and she has principals! This is laughable! You seem very thoughtful as a parent and I’m sure you have many principals and well-thought out rules. I just thought I’d say, you sound so sincere and have put forth immense effort to communicate your points. I appreciate your being candid and very REAL. I have identified with you throughout this discussion.

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Jenny May 18, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Using principles is very different than rules and obedience.

If a parent has a rule of “no hitting”, then a child might pinch instead. The underlying principle is being kind and gentle in play. There are ways to help kids do that without having rules and obedience. You may get the same outcome on the surface, children that play nicely without hitting, but how they get there is what is at the heart of this whole conversation!

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lyla May 17, 2011 at 3:26 pm

val “get off your butt parenting” is an expression coined by a parenting educator (blanking out on who right now) – it was not aimed at you, in particular, and i apologize if it sounded that way. it is specifically about how young children to not respond well, or consistently to verbal commands, and need our physical presence. some kids are more “conditionable” than others, i will give you that. but for a large number of kids, the reaction to attempts at “conditioning” has the exact opposite impact of what’s intended. for more info on that, you can read about “counterwill” by gordon neufeld or gabor mate. here’s a really fascinating chapter in a book about adhd, that is, however, applicable to all / most children: http://www.scatteredminds.com/ch20.htm

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val May 17, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Yes I am familiar with that phrase but you insinuated that I was NOT doing that. And I can understand “counterwill” but that comes (without reading the article) from the rebellious and intense curiousity of the child. It’s like the whole “don’t eat candy” and so naturally the child REALLLLLy wants candy now and has a very hard time demonstrating self control to NOT do it because their brain is overriding. But using the conditioning and rules in situations regarding safety and behavior is different when there is a consequence that follows. Telling a child that you don’t hit while removing them from the situation sends the message. And it might take 5 more times until it clicks. No child that is social and wants to play with others will counter this request. It wouldnt be fair to never allow the child to play with others and isolate them…they need to be in those situations to learn how to behave and play with others. But reasoning and explaining until you’re blue in the face will do nothing until they are older and can understand it.

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lyla May 17, 2011 at 3:45 pm

no that is not what counterwill is, please read the article :)

and i never insinuated that YOU are or aren’t doing anything, i was giving a response to the situation posited about nursing a baby and a toddler throwing rocks.

in addition, i never suggested that a child “never be allowed to play with others” or isolating them, but if a specific scenario is not working for him/her, then no amount of repetition and conditioning will make things better, and it’s highly likely to make things worse, due to the shame involved with “failure” – if a child is not *ready* to do something, then repeating the lesson will not make them more ready. and it might make their readiness take even longer. this happens with reading, to take this on a tangent, for example, *all* the time.

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val May 18, 2011 at 7:26 am

The article is based on when ones WILL is forced on another. Expecting obedience and respect is an entire different thing! I would never beat my children because they didn’t want to practice music. I believe you have completely taken that article out of context in a huge way, sorry. Again there are different motivators behind obedience and I suppose if you are defining obedience as never batting an eye and wearing what you’re told, eating what you’re told, sleeping when you’re told, practicing what you’re told, befriending who you’re told, etc that becomes CONTROL and that is a completely different issue. Obviously we agree that children need to be allowed to express themselves…I am in no way against that! I seek to meet their needs and allow them to explore their desires and passions. But they do this in an environment where their BEHAVIOR has expectations. If we take out children to a restaurant we go over our restaurant “rules” before we get out of the car because I expect certain behavior in that situation and I feel it is important for my children to learn social appropriate behavior. That is not being controlling and they are not going to end up in therapy because mom expects them to sit nice, use an indoor voice, and demonstrate manners!!!! Nor will they one day rebel when I’m not around and think “Ooooh we’re teens now, let’s go to the restaurant and be all rowdy because mom never let us do that.” That’s ridiculous. Now granted I expect less of my 4 year old and even less of my 2 year old than of my 7 year old. It’s completely age appropriate, completely doable and completely NEEDED to function in society. Now again, I repeat myself that if a child “breaks” a rule and gets up and decides to run around the table it depends on the heart of that child as to the reason they are doing this to know how I will react. If their heart is pure and they are simply being a child and forgot, then they are gently reminded. There is no shame or blame. It is LEARNING. If however they are acting out in a way that is not appropriate I will take them OUT of the restaurant, have a stern talk regarding their behavior and my expectations and then we will discuss how that could have been handled better. “That was not appropriate behavior….we don’t run around like that in restaurants…If you are angry about something you need to use your words and tell us…Would you like to tell me anything right now using words?…Do you understand what I expect of you once we go back inside?….Let’s try this again but I need you to understand that if you act out in that way again we will not return to the restaurant and will wait in the car until everyone else is finished.” Hugs and done. Obedience or consequences. Laying out the expectations. The child will choose which way she wants to go.

On that note, it’s been lovely but now I must get back to actually parenting my kids instead of defending to a bunch of people how I do so. Good luck with the most precious life roll we’ve been given – parenting. It is my sincerest hope and prayer that each person here has chosen and will choose what works best for THEIR child while acting in love and yet providing them a foundation from which to grow. <3

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Jenny May 18, 2011 at 1:10 pm

I can expect certain behaviors of my children and still not expect them to obey.

If my child were misbehaving in a restaurant, I would help them behave better, however I wouldn’t take them out and lecture them. If they were really having problems, I’d leave the restaurant and go do something else that my child could handle. In that moment, that child clearly couldn’t handle, for whatever reason, it doesn’t matter, that restaurant.

Instead of assuming intent behind the actions, I look at that child and realize they can’t handle the situation. If I force it, and they fail to behave in restaurant appropriate behavior, it makes us both look bad and disturbs other patrons. It’s better if we leave and go do something else and go back at a time when that child can handle the situation.

If I expected that child to obey, after they’ve clearly demonstrated that they can’t behave in that situation, then I’m setting them up to fail and that stinks for everyone involved.

We can expect children to behave appropriately and we can expect that sometimes they won’t. Expecting children to obey us doesn’t help them find other solutions to dealing with behavior, other than the solution that mom or dad has come up with at that moment, which is to do exactly what that child has clearly demonstrated that they CAN’T do. When they demonstrate that they aren’t doing it, they are being disobedient.

Like Lyla has pointed out, children aren’t being disobedient when they simply can’t do what they are being expected to do because their brain and body aren’t there yet. If a parent can find other ways to help that child do what they need to do, other than to obey, that child learns lots of different ways to handle situations creatively. They learn to listen to themselves. They learn to recognize that they aren’t handling the situation well, regardless of the reason, and find ways to do it different, however that looks. When they are really young, it takes a parent being present with them, helping them navigate it. As they get older they know better and do better.

It’s not about obedience and rules, it’s something else. You are hung up on obedience and rules, but I think, based on what you’ve written that you may actually be doing more of the other without realizing it. There is nothing wrong with expecting certain behaviors in kids. There is nothing wrong with talking to them about it. It’s the expectations of rules and obedience that can get in the way of natural understanding that we all want in our kids.

It’s what is done INSTEAD of rules and obedience to get the results of well behaved kids that think for themselves. It CAN be done. I’ve seen it first hand. My oldest is 17.

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val May 17, 2011 at 4:04 pm

I’ll read the article tonight when I can focus. :) I took it personally because I shared what *I* would do in that situation, that consisted of the bulk of my post. I agree with readiness….definitely with homework and reading and writing, etc. And yes some children are delayed with developing social skills and the ability to adapt to environments outside the home and what not. My oldest daughter…I could hardly attend church or go to the gym because she SCREAMED her head off and could not bear to be away from me. This lasted until she was 3. We kept trying on and off thinking with a bit more time….but nope. With my newly turned 2 year old he cries when I pick him up from the nursery!!!! He LOVES being around other children and playing with them. In fact he talks to just about everyone within ear shot no matter where we are. I think I’ve met more moms because of him talking to everyone than on my own! :LOL

The isolating them I took from the fact you said to avoid the rocks completely if you knew it would be a problem. My point was removing them from the situations where they require learning can do the opposite. I think that each parent knows their child the best and how they learn and what they relate and respond to. It’s not going to be the same across the board. My oldest did not respond to conditioning or to rules or anything but consequences. Then it clicked. With my middle child all it takes is a quick heart to heart and she is a changed girl. With my son, well he’s still pretty young but when he throws a toy at me or a sibling and I look at him and say his name in a stern tone he KNOWS what I mean and will say sorry and then revert to humor to make us laugh. Quite the boy. :) But point is they are all different and I’ve had to alter my style of parenting depending on each personality and stage of the child.

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Chrystal @ Happy Mothering May 17, 2011 at 5:19 pm

I definitely strive to allow my children to explore their feelings and ask questions to understand why. But with a 15 month old and a 3 year old, I definitely struggle with moments when I just want to say, “Because I said so.” It has come out of my mouth on more than one occassion and every time I cringe inside.

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Susan Cowger May 18, 2011 at 10:13 am

Good Book: A FAILURE OF NERVE bu Edwin Friedman. Along with NURTURE SHOCK. Please–don’t be afraid to read these. Those who know enough to argue the opposing side successfully have the right to not agree. Otherwise it is pooled ignorance.

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lyla May 18, 2011 at 11:08 am

cindy, i am really unclear on how anything i said implied that you would or wouldn’t do something about rock throwing!

and no, i am not defensive at all, nor do i see you as a threat to my arguments – to the contrary, i have been studying, exploring, and teaching about child development and parenting for many years and although of course you couldn’t know that, i find your repeated pointing to “the research” with links to poorly written articles and studies that don’t address the issues i am bringing up here, to be condescending.

In fact, i have long been using the triune brain model of child development as a pictoral guide to how children are not “misbehaving” but rather living within the capabilities of their brain development.

the topic of teens and impulse control and brain development and trust is quite separate, in my opinion, than the topic of young children’s brain development, regardless of how the popular media interprets the research, and truly, regardless of the research! the vast majority of medical research is just plain wrong, with poorly designed studies, fraudulent or poorly interpreted results, and many other issues. did i share this article? http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/11/lies-damned-lies-and-medical-science/8269/1/

it’s

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Brooke May 18, 2011 at 6:07 pm

There are a ton of posts on this article and I did not read all of them, only some. So, I apologize if I repeat what someone has already said. This article is scary to me. I know many people agree with this way of parenting and I am scared of what this wprld is going to become. The part of the human brain that causes you to make well-thought-out judgement calls is not fully formed or matured until age 21 I believe. Allowing your child to “decide for themselves” is absurd. How are they supposed to understand true consequences such as “If I don’t eat dinner and eat cookies instead, that will not give my body the nutrition it needs to function properly.” As parents, it is our job to make, yes I said MAKE, our kids do the right thing! We are supposed to teach them how to make good decisions. Maybe tell them WHY they need to do what we have said. At my job, if my boss says to do something a certain way, I can’t make the decision for myself that I like another way better! I would lose every job I would ever get! Rules are a part of the real world and I am raising my son to have respect for rules and authority. These teens in high school are rude and disrespectful and everyone complains about this behavior, but people raising their kids this way are bringing up more people just like our teens! I work at a pediatric office and I get sick of seeing children who “rule the roost”. When writing out school excuses, I will ask the parent, “Is so-and-so going back to school today or tomorrow?” The parent will look st their child and allow them to feel that “their opinion is of important” and allow them to “think for themselves” and they will say, “Do you want to go back to school today or tomorrow?” Are you kidding me??? What child is going to pass up that open opportunity? You are the parent. Allow them to think for themselves, but if they make a wrong decision (absolutely there is such a thing..children must eat balanced meals!) then we as parents must make the decision for them! I don’t know about you, but as a mom who loves her son more than anything, if I tell my son to do something, it’s because he is doing something wrong and I need to help him make the.right decision and explain to him why what I am telling him to do is really the best way. Never “Just because I said so.” I always have a reason.

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Jayne May 18, 2011 at 9:52 pm

To all the people who think that authoritarian parenting and “obey parents at all costs” is really the proper way to go:

my parents did that. their reasons were always “because I said so!””because i’m your mother!”
I, and all of my siblings, as a consequence have had a lot of trouble dealing with independence. My brother, my sister and I have all dropped out of university and have gone through periods of depression due to feeling totally lost at sea. I was allowed no say in decisions, and then suddenly after graduating highschool, I found myself having to look after myself completely and had no idea how to do it.
Now I a only just begining to live my own life, after becoming a single mother and going backt to uni to study education. However mum and dad STILL feel the need to intervene unnecessarily occasionally.

It is simply NOT the way to go. My daughter will be allowed a say in any decision that affects her (as per the UNConvention on the Rights of the Child). This doesn’t mean she will get free reign, but I will listen to what she has to say, and I WILL consider it.

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Susan Cowger May 19, 2011 at 8:45 am

What I find most amusing about this LONG string of comments is that most (all ?) of those commenting are not people who have the end product, grown children. It is all forecasting. who can argue with that? My forecast or yours? Granted, many here are following a plan and have well researched it. But seems to me input from someone looking back on what they did might be most useful.

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Becky Harding December 28, 2011 at 3:34 pm

Susan, I am just such a parent! My daughters are 31 and 28 and I had to figure out what you now call Attachment Parenting on my own back then. I was raised by authoritarian, spanking parents and when my first child was in utero, I became determined to raise my kids differently. The best book I was able to find, 27 years ago (yep, the first one was complete trial-and-error on my part!) was “How to Discipline With Love” by Dr. Fitzhugh Dodson. It gave me some new ideas, which helped considerably. Still, I set boundaries and had rules, but my way of “enforcing” them was based on love and respect FIRST. I hate, hate, HATE “because I said so” – which is how I was raised. I also understood then that safety concerns have to come first. So, although I might shout, “Stop!” as I was moving to physically stop unsafe behavior, I never expected my children to instantly stop what they were doing. I didn’t know until I had two years of college child development classes under my belt, that I was dealing with immature reasoning powers in what was then just starting to be called authoriTATIVE parenting. I know this is a bit of a ramble… but the main thing I want to tell everyone who advocates for authoriTARIAN parenting and thinks kids won’t do well without learning to obey first is this: my own mother and both my in-laws thought I was absolutely crazy for wearing myself out intervening, explaining, and “coddling” my kids. That is, until they saw the undeniable results! One day, my MIL totally shocked me by saying, “I thought you were wrong for never spanking – but I have to tell you, those are two of the MOST pleasant, well-behaved and polite children I have ever seen.” My oldest daughter is now raising her son with lots of support and approval from the AP community and I am SO THANKFUL it’s there for her!! It. WORKS.

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Susan Cowger May 19, 2011 at 9:48 am

And BTW using your own background for empirical data has some value (how you feel you were treated as a child)> But it is only one side of the coin. Let’s have this conversation again in 20 yrs and see if anyone has changed their minds. My prediction: there are so many other factors to child rearing that it will be impossible to know. Biggest factor in my mind: the break up of the family. The impact of divorce and single parenting goes way beyond all we have been talking about. No answers on that one for me. I’m moving on. (FYI: Married 35 yrs. 4 children. 9 grandchildren. Had one rebel in high school who late came back around. Children all college graduates. No estrangements. Something must be working here–perhaps it is the unbroken family factor……? We taught our children obedience as respect for authority. We are Christians. THAT is the biggest and brightest star in the equation.)

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Brooke May 19, 2011 at 4:46 pm

I am a single mother. Not because I chose this life, but because my exhusband chose for us. Does that mean my kid will be a bad kid and be unsuccessful? Absolutely not. Does that make me any less of a parent. Absolutely not. I am also a christian and just because I have a broken family does not make me a bad parent, my son a bad kid and it definitely doesn’t negate my relationship with God. Just because parents stay together and even if their christians, those things don’t make a good parent. I know and have heard of religious families, parents still together who abuse their kids physical, mentally, sexually… Props to you for raising a great family, but us single parents can do just as good of a job. Ask my best friend who only had a mom his entire life…he is a good, successful man. The same God that BLESSED you with a good family, will also pour his blessings on me and my son because “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

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Susan Cowger May 20, 2011 at 8:23 am

Brooke–I did not in any way mean to imply good children could not come from single parent families. I meant that it is a BIG factor in raising them. A difference that makes comparisons difficult. If we all had the same set of variables a decision could easily be made about how to raise children. The single parent family deals with things I have not, I daresay it looks more difficult from my perspective. I respect greatly those who manage it well and have great compassion for those who are overwhelmed..

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Emily May 19, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Several of the comments here have been from people with grown or teen children. Our family is close and connected, as I have said several times. I have four children. My 19.5 year old was a challenging child, and I sought out positive discipline strategies early on. I’m so glad I did. He studies, works and plays hard – fully enjoys his life, friends and family. We are not Christians, we are Jewish, maybe that’s the difference here – I believe that God encourages us to question and explore, and to do the right thing just because it’s right, not because it is commanded by someone who happens to be in a position of authority. We follow the laws of the land, and are models of respectful values for our children, but we also work to change laws we don’t agree with, or at least question them. It’s OK to think and live differently, nobody can say what is best for everyone, just for their family. I feel so fortunate to live in a community where people are free to question and advocate for various ways of thinking and are fully accepted. I love my think-outside-the-box kids, and I have faith they will contribute to making the world a better place. All the stories here are just isolated examples, none is proof of the one right way. I constantly fine-tune my parenting, as I constantly learn new things about life and each of the children themselves. For now, my happy family is enough proof for me.

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Susan Cowger May 19, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Indeed. We have much in common. Your faith gives bedrock to your point: teaching children to do right. That is the crux of the matter (apologies for the pun).

Semantics are a problem–the definition of what it is to obey (only meaning forced obedience. The negative connotations of authority.

Perhaps the best approach is to look for people around you who have succeeded at this and get close enough to let their wisdom splash over on you.

Blessings to all.

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Debbie May 23, 2011 at 1:56 am

I prefer my child obeys me with positive disclipline. For example. I have never told him to pick up his toys, but keep the house clean and pick up things around the house. At playgroup, at the end, they pick up the toys and put them in the box. He helps pick up these toys.I gave him a box toy play with. My eyes popped out of their head when he started keeping all his lego and toys in this box, I didn’t ask him, but it all goes in the box. lol. He is 1 and a half. Children want to learn how to be in the world, teach them positively.

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Reggie May 24, 2011 at 2:22 am

Attachment parenting and positive discipline are not permissive parenting at all! I really react to this, because many hold this view. It is a gentle form of teaching children, which includes boundaries and keeping an eye on safety etc etc… yet it is GENTLE and respectful and does not rely on shame, punishment or disrespect or aggression, intimidation etc etc.DIscipline comes from the word disciple… ‘to teach’. THis involves taking in to consideration the childn’s developmental level as well as taking in to account that they are ANOTHER HUMAN BEING that requires respect. I fail at it often. Yet, what I do know, is that when I am engaging in positive discpline and not loosing my rag unecessarily etc etc – I have a more content child and a more harmonious home and a more harmonious relationship. I chose not to use the naughty step, rewards/punishments, bribes or any of the traditional types of parenting. I sometimes do resort to the cookie on a difficult journey in the car seat – don’t get me wrong, I also try to gently show consequences, or have boundaries and yes, I do use NO for the dangerous things, such as running close to traffic, etc etc. There is a balance. Yet, I ask questions, ‘does that boy want to play with your toy? do you think he’d like it?” or “Hey, do the strawberry leaves stay on the floor or can we put them in the bin – let’s do it together!” or ” 2 more programmes and we go up to bed” rather than “Share – play nicely” or “pick that up now” or “no more TV until you agree to go to bed”. It’s about appraoch and semantics… one is advising, emphasizing a working relationship and not blaming or threatening, while the other is motivated by punishment. I fall short all the time…. but, I think its really worth it to keep at it.

“Uncondtional Parenting” by Alfie Kohn, explains it the best!

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Reggie May 24, 2011 at 2:27 am

P.S My daughter often choses to ‘share’ her toys and her food without my intervention and I’ve never even used the word share… sometimes they get an idea by example, sometimes, the questioning thing helps and then it doesn’t seem like an order or a disrespect for their toys/belongings. Additionally, up until 21/2 ‘ish’ the child is egocentric and actually unable to see the other point of view… they are not being selfish or naughty or rude… this is not a concept to them.

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Chelsey December 28, 2011 at 11:06 am

I was one of those lucky children who rarely, if ever, heard the words, “Because I said so,” come out of either of my parents’ mouths. When I asked, “Why?” I received an explanation, not a parenting IOU. And as a teenager, hearing friends still being told, “You can’t go to the movies because I said so,” I am SO grateful that my parents found a better way. Because that’s not how you raise adults, and ultimately, that’s what all children will become.

I think the other issue is trust. When you can’t explain to your children why you make the decision that they do, eventually they are going to get to an age when the intuitively think their own judgement to be better than yours. If they have no prior experience with valuing your opinion because it is yours and they trust you, then as they gain more independence they are going to listen to you less and less and sneak around more and more. We have to teach our children to think for themselves and realize that sometimes they are going to make mistakes and they don’t need to be punished for being out of order. They are their own order, learning their own lessons, to go forth into their own life. And if they can do that on their own, with only support and love and without direction and orders, then you will have succeeded as a parent. They don’t need you anymore, they want you. That is real, adult love right there. And since your baby won’t be a baby forever, it’s your decision as a parent how long you want them to act like one.

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Tonnie December 28, 2011 at 11:10 am

I understand that as a child get older they should be taught how to think through their decisions. I place emphasis on “taught” because children do not have the skill to reason at a young age, and need to be taught at an older age how to reason with all the consequences, good or bad, with each decision. But do not take this to the extreme that we will allow children or teens, to choose whether or not to obey in those situations where “obedience” is mandatory,i.e, speed limit, and respect of authorities. We expected obedience from our children when they were younger. They are now mature adults making wise choices and are responsible citizens. One is in school to become a fire-fighter/EMT and the other is a Marine.

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Pippi December 28, 2011 at 11:24 am

Hmmm. I do think it’s important for children to obey, not without question, but without argument. One of my sisters hit upon a good method when her husband got tired of hearing their toddler come up with endless reasons not to do basic things. He told her not to answer their son’s “Why?”s until AFTER he had performed the task.

As for the ordering around, I think that’s where the difference between gentle parenting, domination, and unparenting comes in. A true parent is teaching their child the lessons they will need as adults. This means making sure they have good hygiene, good manners, and pick up after themselves. It also means teaching them to make good decisions, which is totally different than making all of their decisions for them and involves allowing them to make bad decisions sometimes, while still being there to support them in the consequences. I think this is the part where too many parents get hung up and decide that their child cannot think for themselves.

A friend of mine had three children, but I thought she only had two. We talked about gentle parenting when I first became interested in it, and I mentioned the whole “for their own safety” argument. She mentioned that her youngest had run out in front of a car as a toddler and been killed. I was amazed and impressed that she had not taken this as a reason to crack down on her other children, but simply as a terrible event to grieve over and move on from. And she does not wallow in guilt for having not prevented it either.

Bad things WILL happen. To your children. In spite of you.

Don’t be the source of them.

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Rebecca December 28, 2011 at 12:20 pm

This is along the lines of PET (Parent Effectiveness Training) and I like it!

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Sarah December 28, 2011 at 9:09 pm

I stopped reading this thread about half way through. The ongoing debate on which parenting style was the best got a little too dry for me. Personally, I rely on my gut instincts first and foremost, I believe in offering my children choices and explaining the consequence of each choice (be it good or bad). I have expectations of them – they are members of our household and I teach them that they are to respect me and I will respect them. I believe that as a parent, we need to offer children rules to direct them – they are not capable of directing themselves, especially when they are very young. I explain the consequence of choosing to follow or not follow the rules. ( Me – Ok, it’s time to brush your teeth. Child – I don’t want to. Me – Do you understand why it’s important to brush your teeth? If you choose to not brush your teeth you will get cavities, or worse, your teeth could rot and need to be pulled out by the dentist. Or if we take the time to care for them now by brushing and they will stay strong and healthy. It’s up to you…) My child always chooses the latter in any situation. This way, I know my child is learning to weigh his options not to follow my command, but he is learning that when you make a choice there are consequences either way. Good and bad. I’m not saying my parenting style is the most correct. I’m only a parent, I’m learning as I go and I don’t believe anyone can say that there is a correct or incorrect way to go about this tremendous job. I think parents and children teach eachother, and through that learn respect for eachother.

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Kristin @ Sense of Wonder December 29, 2011 at 3:34 am

I think if you are suggesting that a child’s relationship to their parent will reflect their relationship with God (a child should obey his parent or he won’t obey God) then we should also remember that a child learns about grace in the same way. If we are to relate to God as a heavenly Father and take our cues from that then we should remember that we were all created with free will, creative spirits and the ability to make mistakes and learn from them.

I am the mother of three children, a 12 year old, a 4 year old, and a 1 year old. I have always parented with the idea that I want my child to understand rather than obey. This doesn’t mean “not parenting” but it does mean that the time was taken to explain why we have these rules. As to this street everyone is so worried about, I would approach the situation by first showing my child the cars. Those cars are fast, those cars are big, those cars would kill you if you walked in to the street. If my child seemed likely to run out in to the street anyway, I would consider the fact that this may not be a safe place for my child to be running loose and I would put them in a stroller or play somewhere else.
No, a toddlers brain isn’t developed yet. They are naturally curious about the world and that is part of brain development. Our job as parents is not to tell him “No, Stop, Don’t do that, Don’t touch that” but to provide safe experiences for them to explore.
My 12 year old knows that actions have consequences because she has been raised with natural consequences for 12 years. She is an “A” student, on the National Juniors Honor Society, and yes, sometimes she talks back. That is part of being a 12 year old. She also talks TO me about anything and every thing, instead of sneaking around behind my back.
I was raised in an “OBEY” household and it didn’t mean that I always obeyed. It meant that I acted obedient when someone was watching and did just what I wanted to do, when no one was around. I don’t see this as effective parenting.

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Rhonda December 29, 2011 at 12:57 pm

People look at me crazy when I encourage my 3 year old to make a decision.
I don’t yell, curse, scream, hit, etc, I get down to his level, look him in the eye, and say for example I’m going to the store, do you want to come along to help, and pick out something you would like us to have in the house?
I had a lady tell me I was ruining him because I let him choose what to put in the shopping cart, etc, he’s not a dog, you teach animals how to obey, you teach children how to respect God, themselves, and others.
As a Biblical parent, I believe in setting bounderies, and allowing my son to help set them.

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Nessa January 3, 2012 at 3:01 pm

That’s such a wonderful start, isn’t it? The only thing that gets me down is that they then leave home and have Governmental “parents” telling them what to do “or else”. One can only hope that in a couple of generations, when enough deliberate (love that term, I”m stealing it :) ) children are raised we can have nations of deliberate adults too, without interference.

Hope I”m around to see it.

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Tim G March 22, 2012 at 5:43 am

The only thing raising children to be obedient is raising them to be a follower. With no real mind of their own. Or at least that’s how it ended up for me. I’ve been being told to do this labor work that. Told to go to school when I absolutely hate it. I’m not even smart enough for school. Sure I was good at writing before, creative, and able to come up with some good conversations. But not anymore.

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gmwilliams April 7, 2012 at 6:04 pm

I totally agree with your premise. Although I am a childfree woman, I, too, believe that parents should raise THINKING and INDEPENDENT MINDED children who analyzes a situation and question authority. Many parents raise their chilldren to be unquestionally obedient and compliant to adult authority. This is wrong because raising such children causes them to have a low or no self-concept and to be prey to all types of abuse from adults because they are in “authority” and therefore they are”right.” Furthermore, teaching a child to be obedient DOES NOT make him/her a leader and an innovator but always a follower who passively accepts life and situations instead of being the initiator of life! This was an excellent read!

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Grace August 10, 2012 at 10:00 am

After parenting my 2 children in an attachment fashion since they were born I am now reaping the benefits of our strong connection to each other. When I need them to do something like pick up their toys or help clear the table after a meal and I tell them that it is important to do it because it helps me they are motivated to comply since they know and feel how much I have done and will do each day to help them. They are 6 and 9 and it is mainly the love they have for me that guides their actions; not fear of me. Of course, there are still arguments and issues, esp. when someone is tired or hungry, but nothing unbearable or abnormal in my opinion.

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Phillip Wei October 1, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Well my mum said that sometimes it isn’t good to allow kids to do anything they want because it can lead to things such as leaving school early or just playing games the whole day.

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Luray October 2, 2012 at 12:03 pm

I am not raising obedient children either…
…but I’m trying. Obedience should be a companion of gentle, loving teaching. We don’t “stop” ordering them around. We gradually lessen our instructions as they mature. A “good” child should be taught why to obey, when to obey and that if challenge to obedience becomes necessary (according to the truth of God, not the whims of a child) there will be support.
I don’t want children who obey without hesitation in every situation. I want children who can think, recognize the truth according to God’s word and respond appropriately. I’d rather my kids be deliberately obedient. I want my kids to know what God wants for them and how to reach it. Internally motivated decisions are dangerous for any of God’s children, young and old. I don’t want my kids to do things because I said so or because they said so. I want them to discover through my guidance that it is the best thing to do because God said so.
Applying one parenting style throughout all of any childhood is absurd. Children grow. They mature. They learn and apply what they have learned. As they do, parents need to constantly adjust how they exercise authority. If obedience in early years teaches what is “considerate, educated and fitting” for future use, that is a good thing.
“Because I said so” scarred a lot of us. But I respect my children enough to teach them that their own reasoning will not successfully guide them through life, there is wisdom accessible through the gift of parents, and that difficult natural consequences can often be avoided if you will just obey in the first place.

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shelby February 22, 2013 at 1:51 pm

So what you are saying is I don’t believe in teaching my children the word “no”, nor do I believe in teaching them to listen and mind me, there teachers or other people of authority i.e. child care providers, grandparents, the law, there friend’s parents….
I can understand that you want your children to be able to think for themselves. But at the same time they need to learn to obey you and others, to follow the rules, and laws. My biggest question is: So I don’t want my kids to be obedient, So does that mean that they still need to be respectful to me and others around them?
Just a general comment not by any means trying to be rude but do your child’s teachers really like having to deal with your children. Because from what I am understanding is that you don’t care if your children listen to you. So your children are going to get the idea that since mom and dad don’t make me mind them then they will take that to school with them and they won’t mind there teachers. This is something that they will take with them there whole life, so does this mean that they don’t have to obey the law as well?

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Kelly Bartlett February 23, 2013 at 9:11 pm

shelby, that’s a very good question. It’s not that obedience doesn’t exist in our house, it’s that it’s not the *goal* of our parenting. Our goals are to create and maintain connected, secure relationships as well as to meet the physical and emotional needs of our children. That said, when children’s needs are met and they have a trusting, securely attached relationship with their parents, they are much more willing to follow their parents’ lead: Kids want to be “good” for those to whom they are attached. So, secure attachment is always our primary goal, and from there we use positive discipline to teach appropriate behavior, self-control, respect, problem solving, etc…on an ongoing basis. But our approach to discipline is never about simply being obedient. It’s a more proactive, long-term approach that is relationship-based.

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Olivia February 25, 2013 at 6:56 pm

My goal is definitely not to raise obedient children. Obedient children learn to please those around them at the expense of their selves. I want to raise authentic children who have the confidence to trust and follow their own inner knowing. I work on sitting with my own discomfort when this contradicts everything society has taught us about “right”. It’s a journey to open and question conditioning. My children want a good relationship with me and that is their motivation (it is definitely not anarchy in my house although my definition of anarchy may differ to yours), rather than fear, but nor do I want it to be about pleasing me. Here’s an article that partly explains why http://www.parentingforsocialchange.com/giving-up-power.html and http://www.ahaparenting.com/parenting-tools/positive-discipline/strict-parenting and see also purejoyparenting.com. You write with the apparent assumption that deference to authority is always a good thing but I disagree with this. Children raised with the goal of obedience and deference to authority are very vulnerable. Vulnerable to being bullied, vulnerable to being abused, vulnerable to being unable to speak up for their selves when it matters.

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KG August 3, 2013 at 11:30 am

i was an obedient child. i was so focused on being good, which meant what my parents and teachers thought was good, that i never really figured out how to be in a loving relationship that doesn’t require doing what the other person wants.

it’s ruining my adult life.

my spouse does not want an obedient partner, but i don’t know how else to behave. this way of being in the world is so ingrained. if i know my spouse wants something, i have a very hard time not changing what i’m doing to be more accommodating. i do it all the time and it’s making me resentful and scared.

some days i don’t want to be alive anymore. i’m better off alone, at the very least. when my spouse finally can’t take it anymore and leaves to find someone who’s not so terrible at staying true to themselves, then i’ll be able to live alone, which is probably the only way i can truly be healthy. if i let other people get too close to me, i lose my entire self, my goals, and personality. it’s an awful thing to be like me. i don’t wish it on others.

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Say As It Is January 16, 2014 at 8:26 am

For the past 30 years of my existence, I was an obedient child. Was, because not anymore. My parents used to stay these stuff – study hard, be smart, books first before boys, either be a doctor or a lawyer, a stable career is your ticket to success, having a spouse and a kid is more of a liability than an asset, etc. etc. All these stuff I was made to believe. However, they failed to point me out one important thing – how to be happy. Yeah, I have achieved more than an ordinary, but certainly it didn’t guarantee my happiness. And it’s just sad. I don’t blame my parents though, but I should have exercise my very own common sense and determined for myself my own reasons (selfish they may be) my necessities for happiness.

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