In our current culture, parents are praised when their children are obedient – it’s a mark of good parenting. The quieter and the more obedient the child, the better. In truth, parents are doing a disservice to their children and to society when they demand that their children do exactly as they are told, no questions asked. In other words, expecting children to dutifully comply with their parents commands, right away, is not such a great idea in the long run.
Here are six reasons why obedience is potentially damaging and why you may want to reconsider demanding it from your child:
Demanding obedience damages self-worth
When a child is made to do something, with no choice or reasoning, their sense of self worth is affected. They must override their own needs to do that which the commanding person expects. A child that is made to stop focusing on their own needs long enough will soon not even bother, afterall someone else will be dictating their needs for them.
Demanding obedience instills shame
Along with overriding their own needs and damaging self-esteem, a child that has no say over their own body and choices will feel ashamed, over and over again. Being repeatedly told that a child has done something incorrectly and that they must instead do something in a certain way imposed by someone else causes emotional pain. This quote from Gershen Kaufman sums it up well “Shame is the most disturbing experience individuals ever have about themselves; no other emotion feels more deeply disturbing because in the moment of shame the self feels wounded from within.”
Demanding obedience is a set up for bullying
Parents often demand that a child follow orders and then threatens with consequences and punishment in the name of obedience. How is a child to recognize when a peer or stranger is bullying them, if this already happens at home? Even worse, a child will come to believe that relationships are built on a foundation of demands and threats and may turn into a bully himself. It’s actually quite a scary thought, but if we take the time to carefully examine the current culture which expects obedience from children at all costs and the ever rising number of problems with bullying in schools it’s enough to make one pause and think.
Demanding obedience hinders critical thinking
A vital part of the learning process and development of a child is asking questions and exploring alternate outcomes. If a parent is making a child obey with phrases such as “Do this right now and just stop asking why!” or worse “Because I said so” they are ultimately denying the development of an incredible life skill; thinking!
Demanding obedience kills trust between a parent and child
Parents can demand and then a child may do as their parent tells them but, ultimately the child will not feel good about what they did. In addition to damaging their self esteem, they will also start to question their trust in you as a parent. Why should a child want to do something, want to please their parent if it comes at a cost of feeling bad, unworthy and deflated? Children that are secure in their relationship with their parents tend to WANT to do what the parent asks but part of that security comes from being able to express themselves, question things, have their own ideas and still feel loved and wanted even if there are disagreements or difference of opinion.
Demanding obedience hinders the development of self-discipline
Some parents nag and demand that their children dress, wash, finish homework, etc…and yet the struggle continues daily. The culprit? Demanding compliance and obedience. The thing is, constant pushing can make a child become dependent on or worse indifferent to those very reminders. A child may start to think “Why bother until that yell comes about” or “if they really mean it, they’ll yell at me.”In no way do I mean to say children should not be getting dressed, doing homework, respecting limits and so on, but demanding obedience does not create the inner guidance to do what we know is best and correct for that moment, in fact it squashes it.
Do you find yourself demanding that your children be obedient? Frustrated that nothing works? You are not alone, after all, society really expects children to quietly behave and do as they are told, and of course it’s sometimes much easier if our children would just do what we want. So, wondering what to do instead of demanding Obedience?