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.
Myth Busted: Compliant children do not necessarily make “good” adults. Compliance can come at a cost. Fitting in, following orders and “making nice” can actually result in more frustrated, less empowered, and potentially more volatile adults. Freedom, experimentation, and self expression are the real hallmarks of successful people, not compliance. Lastly, and especially important for our democracies, obedient children learn to do what they are told, no matter what is right. Free thinking children (and adults) do what’s right, no matter what they are told.
It’s not that following rules, listening to authority, and fitting in has zero value, but I do question how much value is placed upon them. They should no longer be the mainstay of anyone’s parenting approach. In this world, the idea of raising an obedient child is outdated, and no longer applicable. There are more positive and empowering ways of instilling virtues of respect, cooperation and kindness in our children anyway…other than forcing your child to learn them. Empowering children rather than controlling them will yield so much more success in their future and our collective future.
In an attempt to raise good people, we’ve unintentionally focused on the wrong things. At some point we equated obedient with good, and it’s not working. A hyper focus on obedience has killed curiosity, creativity, independence and assertiveness. After all, who are the inventors, creators, artists, entrepreneurs and discoverers? The obedient or the free thinking? The game changers are the children who were either raised in a free thinking home, or broke free from limiting and controlling homes.
If obedience is what you are aiming for, I believe you are actually putting your child at a disadvantage. There is no problem with helping foster discipline, perseverance, and resilience. But power tripping on authority and demanding obedience is not loving, not constructive, and is not what your child, or the world, needs.
Ask yourself, what is the goal of raising a child? To raise someone capable of doing new things, speaking her mind, standing up for truth and progress. If not, and you still prefer the obedience model, you might be raising a child who will end up listening to and following the biggest, loudest, and most authoritarian voice in the room, right or wrong.