Sunday, August 17, 2014

Obedience Is Overrated

Some recent comments on “Motherlode,” the parenting blog at the New York Times, made me feel sick.

One woman said, “I told the teacher that there was only one rule in our house … And that was ‘Obey’” and then later added, “I didn't even want to hear ‘Yes, ma'am’ when I told my son to do something. As I told him, all I wanted to hear was the sound of his feet moving to do what I told him to do.”

Unlike this person, I don’t think you have to be a dick to raise children. In fact, I think you shouldn’t be.

My mother said the best advice she ever got came from our pediatrician. He said, “Try not to say no. Say it only when you absolutely have to. But once you do say it, stick with it.”

He was referring to the very few things a parent needs to stand firm on: not running into traffic, for instance.

I guess demanding obedience seems simpler. Plus, I suspect some parents get off on it.

But it doesn’t work. You can’t order a toddler to sleep, though you can battle her down. Forcing a kid to choke down food he doesn’t like is a sure-fire way to make sure he never likes it.

And, in the long run, if all you ever do is order your children around, don’t be surprised when they never come to you for advice.

Ironically, teenagers LOVE to talk about sex and drugs and other issues they face.

But they won’t – can’t – talk to a drill-sergeant parent.

And they need to talk … preferably to you. It’s how they’ll understand why you think what you do. It’s how they’ll learn to think for themselves.

And that – rather than obedience – should be the goal.

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