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.

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.

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.

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Kelly Bartlett (36 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.

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