Saturday, March 07, 2009

Obedience Is Over-Rated. And Under-Rated, Too.

If you look at many child-raising books, obedience is a huge issue. Getting your children to do what you say, when you say it, and the exact way you tell them to seems to be a much written about subject.

Natural parenting sorts like me tend to bristle at these types of books. Personally, I think blind obedience is over-rated. I don't want my kids to be blind followers. I want them to be free thinkers who do the right thing after evaluating it and coming to their own conclusions. If anyone, be it a totalitarian government or a pedophile, tell them to do someing that is wrong for them, I want them to feel comfortable in bucking authority.

Unfortunately, this can lead to complications in the running of a home. I want my kids to question authority, just not my authority. I don't want to spend hours explaining why they should go to bed or clean their room. I have a bunch of smart kids, and they would jump on that bandwagon as soon as it appeared on the horizon. Further, when I tell them to get out of the road or stay away from that dog, safety demands immediate compliance. I know a lot of kids who are just rotten little brats because they can never just do what they are told, and this isn't setting them up for career or academic success.

My plan, which so far seems to work, is this:

1. People in my home, including the children, should be respectful, responsible, and fun to be with.

2. I am willing to discuss the fairness of everyday tasks such as chores, bedtimes, etc, on occasion, but in a respectful way and at an agreed-upon time. I will not discuss bedtime at bedtime, or the fairness of one child setting the table while I am getting dinner ready. I will not cater to whining.

3. No one should ever do anything that hurts or makes them uncomfortable. Eating vegetables does not qualify.

4. When in doubt about whether to obey, ask another adult.

I guess the key is to keep lines of communication open and to avoid forms and amounts of discipline that would make the child fearful. Obedience is definitely expected in my home and in life in general, but one shouldn't shut down their own moral compass.