This interesting parenting article about obedience appeared in on The Guardian website a couple of weeks ago.
I think she makes a good point when she writes:
“But actually is an obedient child cause for concern or celebration? The more I thought about it, the more intrigued I became by this question. Telling someone their child is obedient is (usually) meant as a compliment. But an obedient adult? Not quite so attractive is it? We have other words for that, doormat being one of them.”
I remember a particularly challenging student that I had in the past. She almost always wanted to know why she had to do this or that and would watch you like a hawk to see if you meant what you said. As her teacher, I was frustrated at times, but she was also pretty hilarious, mature, and always ready to help out.
One day, another teacher was commenting on how “stubborn” this student was, and before I could say anything, an older, more experienced teacher said, “Stubborn doesn’t always mean bad. Lawyers are stubborn. Activists are stubborn.”
I liked that a lot. That statement shifted my way of thinking and made me appreciate that student much more. I knew that I had to recognize this student’s stubbornness not as a “good” or “bad” trait, but just as a part of her personality that could be honed, like any other, to help her be successful (whatever her definition of that is) in life.
Do I want Freestyle to be obedient? Yes, of course. But I also want her to question and challenge authority and the rules in appropriate ways when she is older and really beginning her moral development (around the age of 11 or 12 years).
(I can hear parents of teenagers thinking, ‘Ha! Just you wait, sweetie. Come back to us when Freestyle is 15 and then we’ll see how you feel about it!’)
I mean, obviously, I’m not looking forward to those times when she is rebelling and yelling about how much she hates me and that I’ve ruined her life (ooh…just got a shudder!). What I mean is that I want Freestyle to grow up and not blindly follow the rules and unquestioningly do what people tell her to do, like a “good girl.”
I hope that if something doesn’t make sense or doesn’t feel right (morally, emotionally, physically), that she will stop and come to me or Biker (or another adult that she trusts and feels comfortable enough with to talk to)– which will take considerable patience, open-mindedness, and trust-building on our part, starting now!
I hope that when she is in a situation where she will have to make a tough decision (and possibly be ostracized by her friends for it), that she will have the strength to say no (or at least, “not now” and run like heck in the other direction!).
I hope that even if an authority figure is asking her to do something that she believes is even a tiny bit wrong, she will be able to trust her own intuition and recognize her own self-worth enough to refuse. I hope she will have the eloquence, respect, and tact to explain why she is refusing (unless it’s something really bad and urgent- then screw eloquence and get out of there!). I hope that she develops the resourcefulness and knowledge of where and how to get help in those situations.
How am I going to do all this? I have no idea! It’s going to be so hard to “let go” when she’s older and I can’t be there by her side. I think that we’ll have to work to make sure that Freestyle learns to think for herself as well as the welfare of others and encourage her to develop good critical thinking skills (which is very evidently missing in children’s education today). I do believe that the Montessori philosophy, when properly applied, does naturally allow and encourage the child with those issues. Just reason #253 why I love Montessori education. 🙂
One last thing. The writer also said:
“There seems to be a real fashion for taming children and the reason seems to be fear: it’s not that most people are worried about one incident of wall-scribbling, but that they seem to fear what this behaviour will turn into if it’s not kept in check, as if all children are just waiting to grow up into sociopaths.”
I’d argue that another fear is the fear of judgement from other people, especially other parents. Hey, I both judge and have the fear of being judged by other parents. It’s hard not to feel that way, especially in our North American culture of Hyper Parenting.
However, I am really working on not judging because I realize that I’m only seeing a few seconds of these people’s lives.* And honestly, while it might be their child today, tomorrow it could easily be Freestyle having the meltdown.
I’m also trying not to worry so much if Freestyle is staging an in-store protest by lying on the floor when she doesn’t want to leave because I know that this is not her common behaviour, even though those two clucking old ladies staring at her, openly tsk tsk-ing, do not.
So, how about this. If you’re a parent (or not!), join me in pledging not to judge other parents purely on a passing 3-second observation. Let’s make support the first reaction in those situations for our fellow parents.
This could be anything from an understanding smile for the dad who is trying to wrestle his crying 10-month-old into a snowsuit to an offer of help to a mom who has three crying kids in the shopping cart and has just knocked over a display of cereal boxes while trying to placate the kids by ripping open an unpurchased box of cookies with her teeth. Hey- remember, no judgement!).
Raising kids is tough enough. Let’s make things easier for ourselves by doing that whole “It takes a village” thing.
What did you think of the article?
*However, I do not think this applies to some parental behaviour that I’ve unfortunately witnessed. It hasn’t been enough to call Children’s Aid (as a teacher, I’m obligated to report signs of child abuse, though it must be said that EVERYONE has a duty to report it.) but still pretty appalling and sad. Also, if you’re interested, here is their Positive Parenting package.