Meaningful Parenting- Do I want an obedient child? Part 1

Don't forget what I say is more important that what you say.

I have just returned from India trip and I have come with a heavy heart and a sulking 4-year-old.
Grandparents, both paternal and maternal finally found a label for my child- Disobedient.
And maternal grandparents carelessly said- like mum, like son.
When his father joined me later...they added, "he is quite a handful. I must say, he needs training. He is very disobedient and I am fed up of his why's".
Another blow to the heart. We thought he was doing good.
So, let’s understand what is this obedience. The dictionary defines it as “compliance with an order, request, or law or submission to another's authority.”
Parents define it as- "compliance with what they say without questions asked."
Obedience in one's own child is not only desired but also enforced through various means.
And how does obedience manifest itself behaviorally?
Just the way my parents use to talk about my brother who was highly obedient in their eyes(not to me for sure. I thought his only objective in the world was to ensure his parents were happy).
  • My brother followed instructions without a question. He did what was told. WOW. How obedient!
  • When conflict situation arose, my brother didn't talk back. He listened to what was said to him. Oh really? How obedient.
  • Rules were rules and no negotiations were allowed. He was pretty much content to what was passed to him in terms of rules or chocolates. Not bad. How obedient.
  • And be it elementary school years or teenage years later, he was pretty much dim with his emotions. No defiance, no withdrawal and no hang ups. Cool. How obedient.

And who was I? I was the quintessential disobedient girl, always cornered for being so, compared with my brother and labelled rebel. It hit me hard. Now that I look back, I still reel under the label and the hurt of it. I wasn’t proud of it but I carried it for years. Some labels refuse to fade.
Yes, we as parents feel proud to have an obedient child. Not only it brings us praises for doing the right upbringing, it also makes the child the flag bearer for all that a child should be like. The child becomes the yardstick against which all the not so advantaged ones are compared to.  I was the underdog for a long time. Not to forget, an obedient child is such a blessing when you are rushing for work and dressing up a preschooler. I bet. :)

Now, when I have my own child, I often look back at my childhood with a heartache and wonder what went so grievously wrong? Was the label right? Did my parents misunderstand me? Now what? What do I do with my son?
All the more because ‘I SAID SOis no explanation at any point of time in life for anything or any person.

Alfie Kohn, author of "unconditional Parenting' expresses his concern over a complaint child who becomes a concern when he reaches adolescence. A very young child is not really supposed to be obedient because their needs are in conflict with the adult ways of the world. They are growing and they are natural, curious explorers. Disobedience also has underlying causes which can be environmental or psychological or biological such as an overtired child, hunger or fear about some unfamiliar place etc.
Some children are docile by temperament but many a time a highly obedient child has created a false sense of self because they know that their parents will approve of them, love them, reward them only when they are obedient.

Click on the link to continue reading Part 2.

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