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.