It’s exhausting having kids who don’t follow my every direction. They’re disobedient. Stubborn. Argumentative. It’s not easy raising free thinkers who question authority when you’re the authority and you really just need them to obey for 10 damn seconds. You want what’s best for them; deep down I know that I’m not raising children, I’m raising future adults. I don’t want blindly obedient kids.
I Don’t Want Obedient Kids
One by one I have slowly loosened the reigns on each child as they venture deeper into the big wide world. No longer can I control their interactions with others. I want them to be equipped with the skills to question if the peer pressure is a good idea, to wonder if the facts the teacher is spouting are true and research them on their own, and to consider that obeying the questionable authority figure’s demands hopefully keeping themselves safe.
Why shouldn’t you have obedient kids?
- Children who push boundaries are more securely attached
- It can help prevent sexual assault
- Blind obedience helped fuel the Holocaust/Nazi influence
- They’ll be less susceptible to peer pressure
- Disobedient kids make more money as adults
Raising free-thinking children in a world that demands obedience is not an easy task. Here are some ideas to help:
Accept that you will be judged
Everyone measures how “good” a child is by how still they sit and how quickly they obey. We all know that not every child who challenges us is bad, nor is every child who follows direction good. A little bit of research will tell you many of the most heinous crimes and some of the worst cases of abuse were all carried out or victimized by people just doing what they were told. For some reason none of this is relevant if there is an emotional child who is asking their mother why they have to leave the playground.
Teach them appropriate reactions but understand they are children
If you’re going to allow children to question your authority and have them expect an explanation, you’re going to end up with a lot of arguments and tantrums, especially from young children. Even older kids will struggle to be OK with your reply if it doesn’t meet their expectations. This doesn’t meant that tantrums, yelling, or other explosive forms of protest are excusable.
Children have the rights to their feelings, like everyone, but they do not have the right to impose their feelings on others. If the child wants to cry, provide them an appropriate way to express their feelings. If they’re anger, guide them to ways to channel that. Or help them calm down. Don’t punish the emotion or the debate, punish the behaviour alone. Have some compassion to remember that even as adult we don’t control our emotions well all the time.
Set boundaries about what is non-negotiable
It’s unfair to not tell a child why they can’t stay up all night but poor parenting to allow them to argue that fact every night. In life, some things will not be up for debate and they will need to understand the difference between questioning intelligently and fighting when they cannot win. Again, treat them with compassion, but be firm about things pertaining to their health and safety. Consider yourself why you have certain rules in place and look for compromises and solutions when possible.
Ask them questions
Question their motivations every now and then. Challenge their beliefs. Have them explain what a character is doing in books or TV and wonder out loud of something is fact or fiction. Encourage whenever you can for them to form their own opinions and do their own research on everything they see, do, and hear. As they get older, help them understand how their friends’ beliefs may differ from their own and that can be OK, or not, depending on what you value.
Know when to back down
Sometimes we say no on reflex, then the following tantrum or strong argument makes us realize it was far more important to the child than we thought and a yes would have made them really happy. Some people think you should always stick to your guns but I believe parents need to show their children that everyone makes mistakes and some decisions can be reconsidered.
Even if their behaviour was negative you can still punish that and change the no to a yes. If a child makes a good case for why they should do something, and you’ve changed your mind, tell them! Let them win. It will boost their confidence and reinforce that they have the power to change minds and influence others too.
Encourage your kids to comply
We do need our children to do what we say a lot of the time. After all, they are still learning about the world and it’s our job to guide them through this difficult developmental time. Explaining why their compliance is needed is a great way to encourage the shared respect between parent and children, and respect begets more generosity and willingness to assist. Sometimes we must force our children to do something they don’t want to do even after we’ve exhausted all methods of compliance. My children are not children who get to do whatever they want! They are simply the ones who get to think, feel, express, and discuss what goes on in their lives.
I truly don’t believe we are the worst generation of parents or raising entitled, spoiled brats. Especially by not beating our children into submission.