Obedience is Less Important Than You Might Think
I understand that obedience feels like an important and even necessary thing to develop and maintain in kids. It seems like without obedience kids will run wild and do whatever they want.
This is simply not the case. Kids are much more willing to cooperate and work with us to create a happy and harmonious home than we usually give them credit for. They do not have to be coerced into it.
Focusing on Obedience Reduces Other Skills
In fact there is an inherent problem with the desire to want kids to be obedient and follow directions. It restricts their freedom and their ability to make independent decisions. It takes the focus off learning important skills and it puts a distance between parent and child.
In my opinion the only time to desire obedience or following of directions is during a time of danger or absolute necessity, such as you’re going to lose your job if you don’t get out of the house.
Primary Parenting Focus
In every other situation the primary focus should be on
1) The child learning to think, feel, reason and DECIDE for themselves
2) The Child learning life skills through experience, not lectures
3) Nurturing the relationship between you and your child.
I call these
1) Relationship with the Self
2) Relationship with the World
3) Relationship with the Parent
When my focus is on these things I have no interest in my kid following directions or being obedient! I’m too busy working at improving their lives and the potential of their future.
In fact obedience can actually seem distasteful to me if it seems to come from compliance.
Sometimes she’ll agree to do something I ask of her and I just feel she doesn’t really want to do it.
So I will actually stop her from doing it and ask how she really feels.
Sometimes her answer is that she really doesn’t want to and she has a good reason for it.
So then I encourage her to speak her mind and tell me so and I let her know that I’ll always respect it. This is because learning to speak her mind is more valuable to me than having her obedience in that moment.
Sometimes she says that she honestly felt like helping even though she wasn’t thrilled with the activity itself.
In those moments I acknowledge her self-awareness and her generosity.
I celebrate this because she is making a conscious decision. She is saying a conscious YES.
It’s the same with when she says NO.
Is it a conscious or unconscious NO?
Freedom of Choice is Fundamental
I value her freedom of choice and her ability to use that powerful freedom in as skilled a manner as possible. Decision making is a serious skill and requires a lot of work to learn and do well. Being able to listen to our hearts and follow what we feel to be the right thing is very important.
I never want my daughter to obey me or follow my directions if there is any part of her that feels it’s not right for her to do so… except in the 2 circumstances noted above (safety and unavoidable circumstances). And because of the way her freedom is so deeply respected she never pushes back when those moments arise.
What I do want is for her to self-evaluate and then to say a strong “NO” when that is what her heart tells her and to say a strong “YES” when that is what her heart tells her.
This is what she normally does. She knows herself very well and follows her heart.
Freedom Does NOT Produce Selfishness
It Inspires Authenticity and Generosity
One might think this would produce a self-centred and selfish person, and yet the exact opposite is the case. She is one of the most generous, caring, helpful and kind people you’ll meet. She will readily put herself out to help a friend in need.
She stands up for own needs when necessary
Is generous and giving beyond expectation.
And she knows herself, she thinks deeply
and evaluates each situation independently
This is a wonderful balance!
Here’s an Example of Her Self-Evaluation.
Today when we got home from school (I have the privilege of driving her to and picking her up from school every day) and came up to the apartment I had left my cell phone in the car. I really wanted it, but didn’t want to go down because I’ve been pretty sick for a few days.
So I asked her if she would go get it for me. Now she was tired from her long day at school so right away she said “No, why don’t you just do without it until we go out later?” I said I’d really like it, but don’t have the energy to go get it. And she replied saying that she was too tired and hungry and didn’t want to.
I Respect and Validate Her Choices
So I said that I understood, because I did, and I let it go.
No guilt, no pressure.
2 minutes later she was suddenly putting on her shoes!
I said “My love, you really don’t have to get it. I can do without it for a couple hours.”
She said “No it’s alright I’m fine with it.”
I argued again, trying to convince her that it wasn’t necessary. Especially since I knew she was hungry, but she insisted that this is what she wanted to do.
She thought and felt about the interaction on her own and came to the conclusion that getting the phone was the right thing to do. Even when I gave her an out she wouldn’t take it.
This self-evaluation has been developed in her since the beginning.
She KNOWS that I accept her NO with total love.
She KNOWS I don’t disapprove of her when she does what she wants,
In fact I encourage and celebrate it.
So the decision was made from her own heart.
This to me is worth more than any show of obedience she might have made.
An Atmosphere of Freedom
To develop this independence required letting go of any attachment to obedience because only in total freedom can truly free thinking take place. This was always my goal and to the best of my meagre ability I worked to create this atmosphere of freedom.
Like the qualities of love, respect and connection – free thinking and independent decision making can only blossom where there is freedom to choose.