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"Children who have been responded to, led to believe - in a healthy way - that their voice is valued, that all they have to do is object and action will be taken - they will push boundaries. And this is really healthy behaviour. Compliance? They've learned there's no point arguing because their voice isn't valued." - Alison Roy

Most parents feel embarrassed when their child doesn't obey them. When we say jump, they're supposed to jump, right?  If they don't, isn't that evidence that we're lousy parents?

Actually, No.  Most of us have a fantasy of perfect kids, who respond to our raised eyebrow by jumping to it. But it's actually dangerous to raise a child who obeys without question, who swallows his objections and does what he's told.  Here's why.

Obedient children grow into obedient adults.  They're less likely to stand up for themselves, more likely to be taken advantage of. They're also capable of terrible acts, because they don't take responsibility for their actions; they blame whoever told them to do it.

Even for children, unquestioning obedience isn't healthy.  Here are a few situations children I know have confronted in the past year:

  • A three year old was molested by an older child.
  • A five year old was molested by an older child.
  • A six year old was screamed at, up close and personal, by a coach.
  • An eight year old was bullied.
  • An eleven year old was recruited by the mean girls to participate in their behavior.
  • A twelve year old was offered drugs.
  • A fourteen year old was date-raped by a boy at a party.

No parent can know what her child will have to face.  We can only hope we've raised a child who will stand up for herself; who will raise her voice and refuse to go along with the person who is trying to take advantage.  And guess what determines that?  Whether the child believes her voice will be listened to, her objections heard.

How do children come to believe that?  Experience. 

  • Every time your child objects, and you take her objection seriously. 
  • Every time your child comes to you when he's upset, and you listen and take his concerns seriously.
  • Every time you set a limit with empathy, so you acknowledge her view, even when she can't get her way.
  • Every time you look for a win/win solution instead of imposing your will.
  • Every time you remind yourself that you can't control anyone but you.
  • Every time you remind yourself that your baby, your toddler, your preschooler is a person in his own right, with a right to his own preferences.
  • Every time you say "You're in charge of that decision" or "What do you think about that?" 
  • Every time you calm yourself enough to say "I hear you think I'm being unfair...I really want to hear what you think...let's try a do-over with respectful voices so I can understand your perspective."
  • Every time you remind yourself that force creates push-back -- or, worse yet, compliance.

So if you're thinking your child should be obedient, think again.  Thoughtful, respectful, cooperative -- Yes, absolutely. Kids grow up that way when we listen to their thoughts, treat them with respect, and invite cooperation by working together on solutions.

Obedient? I hope not.

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Thursday, June 14, 2012 | Permalink | Blog Home
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