Perspective on Obedience

May 19, 2011 at 7:37 am (Attachment Parenting, Positive Discipline)

I sat down to write a response to the comments I received after a(n apparently) controversial blog post I wrote on raising non-obedient kids.  The thing is, I didn’t actually want to respond.  I think the post has given many people something to think about, and that’s pretty much all I wanted to do.  But all the talk my husband and I had this weekend as we watched the comments roll in made me wonder what else I could say about this topic; the idea of parenting with a mindset in which obedience is not the end goal.

I have started and re-started this blog entry so many times, not knowing quite what to say.  Because there is so much to say.  I typed out a really excellent response to my critics, and then deleted it because it still wasn’t sufficient.  Nothing I could write in a few-paragraph blog entry will be.  I could write a book on the “other” side of raising children with obedience; the voluntary, secondary side.  The idea that obedience is not something to be taught or enforced or conditioned in children, but is a natural, intentional byproduct of emotional security and personal connection.

The bottom line is, despite the criticisms, I stand behind what I wrote, 100%.  The other bottom line is that it must be kept in perspective.  As a stand-alone piece, the idea of raising my kids to be “non-obedient” sounds extreme.  Though in the context of the numerous articles I’ve written about the whats, whys, and how-tos of positive parenting, as well as to those who know our family and our kids personally, it’s extremely fitting.

Last night at dinner, John and I asked the kids, “What do you guys think about the idea of obedience?” We were met with a blank stare from Elia and an “ummmmm” expression from JJ.  I said, “Do you know what that means?”  To which Elia replied, “Yes, and you guys have been talking about it a lot.”  “Yes!  🙂 We sure have, haven’t we?  Did you know that some parents expect their kids to obey them all the time?”  At which point JJ’s face lit up with a big smile, “Yeaaah, like dogs!”  The thought clearly amused him.

There’s a difference between expecting my kids to behave appropriately and expecting them to obey me when I tell them how to behave appropriately.  John and I absolutely have high expectations and firm limits for our kids, but we adopt a “working with” approach rather than an “obey me” approach to achieving behavioral goals.

I love knowing that my children don’t have to obey authority; that they have as much free will as anyone.  But even more than that, I love that they do anyway.  They choose to because of the relationship we have.


  1. lia dominique andress said,

    People are ultimately going to do what works for them. I have never understood why this means they need to criticize what works for someone else. You will reap what you sow with your kids. So just worry about yourself. Forget the critics. Gloss over their responses and let them worry about how their kids will turn the tables in due time. Focus on us, the readers who follow you because we intuitively know that this is the way. Don’t let the critics hamper your writing or your outlook… because it does work… for us.


    • Kelly said,

      lia, totally! After reading all those comments, all I had to do was scoop my children in my arms, feel their warmth, hear their laughs and the happiness in their voices, and see their compassion for others to know that what we’re doing is absolutely the right thing to do. Thanks for your support!

  2. Nicole Case said,

    Great post. Clicked on the link to your article in API and was AMAZED at the amount of comments. Great post by John, by the way. And, he is right. When I sit on the park bench next to you, I think “those are great kids.”

    • Kelly said,

      Thanks Nicole! I absolutely realize there’s lots of perspectives on this topic, but some of the commenters insinuated that our kids must be out-of-control monsters since we didn’t enforce obedience for obedience’s sake. That bothered John enough to want to say something. I think it’s clear that no matter your take on obedience, it is very possible to have well-behaved kids!

  3. Chris said,

    Great response, kiddo! I loved JJ’s analogy of obey “like a dog”. You are raising wonderful children. Keep up the good work!

    • Kelly said,

      Yes! I thought that was funny too…that’s just what comes to his mind when he thinks of what it means to”obey”…it’s just what pets do!

  4. Laura said,

    well done. with you 100%.

  5. Amy said,

    Nice rebuttle! And I agree 100%….like we talked about the other night, the “proof is in the pudding”. You have great kids, and a great relationship with them. Hats off to you guys!!!!!

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