Having an Obedient Child Doesn't Make You a Good Parent

child in time outToddlerhood, the age that defines the parenting warriors from the flakes, the battle-axes from the push-overs. If babyhood is all about mere survival, the toddler years are when you decide what kind of a parent you're going to be. Even if you don't pick a specific parenting philosophy -- say, tall half-disciplinarian half-attachment-parenting with soy whipped cream -- you're still being forced to make decisions about how you will teach your kid to be a decent human being.

For a lot of parents -- and parenting experts -- raising a decent human being looks a lot like raising an obedient person. BUT -- we also want our kids to be compassionate and independent thinkers. An article in The Guardian asks, Since when did obedience become the epitome of good parenting? I think that's an idea worth picking apart.


I feel like there's this notion that raising a child means taming a child. And I think that approach totally oversimplifies the job. My role as a parent isn't just to teach my kid right from wrong. It's way more complex than that. I'm supposed to be teaching him what empathy is, and why it matters, and how to do it. I'm supposed to teach him to reason, to question, to explore, and to trust himself. I'm supposed to teach him how helpful cooperating with the grownups in certain situations is -- and how to use his judgement to choose when not to follow orders. I'm supposed to help him develop his own moral compass -- not one I've imposed on him, but one of his own making.

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I remember long ago thinking I would be a strict disciplinarian when I became a parent. (Back when I knew it all, obviously.) And then I met my son. And I realized I'd been seeing parenting through an incredibly narrow and limiting perspective.

Abandoning obedience-based parenting doesn't mean you're raising your kid to be an inconsiderate little jerk. (Yeah, we hear you, JoAnn from Bensonhurst.) And I know what people are talking about when they complain about parents who just let their kids run wild. But there's a difference between barking "NO!" or "STOPIT NOW!" at your kid and picking the right moment to lower yourself down to their eye level and using your INSIDE voice to help them see when their behavior is unkind or destructive. And the difference is -- that second approach is way more work. But I think it's worth the effort.

What do you think -- should children be taught to be obedient or are there better approaches?


Image via © iStock.com/kkay

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