08 March 2012

Do You Want Obedient Children?

The term obedience makes me a little squeamish. I don't want to raise obedient children. Before you get into a lather, let me clarify: What I am talking about is the idea of first time, every time obedience as a parenting goal. I'm not saying I never pull the Momma Card . . . it happens. Of course I protect my children from danger and of course I want my children to listen to me . . . but within the context of a mutual respectful relationship.

What I take issue with is the culturally constructed concept of obedience. Even for—make that especially for—young children. The idea of first-time, unquestioning submission. (Because I'm the parent. Because I said so. Do this or else.) The thought that we must "demand" respect from our children and anything less means they are running the show. (Guess what? If you must demand it, you ain't got it.) The crazy notion that our job as parents is to prepare our children for future disappointments (life isn't fair!) by making sure we tell them no and not waiver (because otherwise surely they will end up as entitled, spoiled brats.) The belief that obeying your parents wishes equates to obeying the will of God.

Not that some days it wouldn't be nice (in the short term, anyway) if I had more compliant offspring. But I know that's not my long-term objective. I don't want blindly obedient children. I would never expect or desire my Agents to sheepishly do what I say simply because I (or someone else) told them to. I do not want them to listen to me only because they fear me. (And face it, most "obedience" in young children is really fear of consequences.) I want them to be able to question things they don't understand or disagree with.

(I also cannot help but wonder: What happens as an obedient child grows? Do they continue to do as others tell them out of "obedience and respect for authority"? Because I'm sure that whole blind obedience thing works out swimmingly when children confront peer pressure. Or become the target of a bully. Or cross paths with, oh, a pedophile.)

So what do I wish for my darlings if not to comply, obey, and contort their wills to my mine? 

As a parent, I want to have a positive, secure, loving relationship with my children. I want to be an example for them to emulate. I want them to grow into compassionate, open-minded, loving, confident, kind individuals. I want my children to be grace-full. Nope, that's not a typo. I don't mean graceful in the elegant ballet dancer sense, I mean full of grace . . . to know that they (and others) deserve grace. I want them to know about second chances. I want my children to listen to me not out of fear, but because they have genuine respect for my guidance. 

When I hear my children speak to my grandchildren, and think oh that sounds just like me, I want to be smiling, not cringing.

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