The Obedience Myth

The Myth:

Our number one job as parents is to get kids to do as we say, learn how to mind their manners, be nice, and not cause trouble. If we do this, they will turn out to be good people.

The Truth:

Compliant children do not necessarily make “good” adults. Compliance can come at a cost. Too much fitting in, following orders and “making nice” can actually result in more frustrated, less empowered, and potentially more volatile adults.

Courage, self-regulation, and internal motivation are the hallmarks of successful and fulfilled people, not compliance. I admit, there are times when I just want my kids to just listen and do what I say. But I also want my children to grow up knowing what’s right, and doing what it right, not simply what they are told. So, it’s tricky.

Yes there is value in following rules, listening to authority, and fitting in, but this is no longer the main lesson for parents who want to help their children become the biggest and boldest versions of themselves possible. Compliance favors control while empowerment favors trust and guidance.

But can we still teach respect, cooperation and kindness to our children? Won’t they be disrespectful and impolite if we don’t make them behave? In short, no.
Better results are being demonstrated with regard to prosocial and helpful behaviors when parents teach empathy, and model and teach their own helpful behavior at home.

I understand the worry and that this might seem foreign, especially for those raised in a strict home themselves. This worry of raising disrespectful kids can cause us to fall back on the obedience model. I understand this feeling, but there are other ways, better ways. I’d be happy to discuss them with you.

Yes we need to foster discipline, perseverance, and resilience. Yes, we need to give our kids expectations and responsibility. But focusing on connection, empowerment, and problem solving is the way forward. Not only will this child grow up to be respectful and polite, this child will grow up liking and believing in himself, will grow up to be capable, and will grow up to be a person who speaks his mind while standing up for himself, others, and truth and progress!

Research to back it up:

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