Demanding Blind Obedience is Dangerous
Those who subvert authority change the world for the better
“He doesn’t respect authority.”
Good, he shouldn’t. Not without good reason.
“He needs to do what he’s told.”
Again, not without good reason.
If you want people to respect you, first make sure you’re behaving like someone worthy of respect.
Don’t @ me with rants about “kids these days” and tell me how my son will “never make it” in this world if I don’t teach him to respect authority. I don’t want your hyperbole, nor do I care about your out-dated, backwards opinions.
“If you want people to respect you, behave like someone worthy of respect.”
Listen, I’m not saying I let my son go around being rude to people for no reason, nor do I let him run around without any boundaries.
I also don’t bother lecturing him, yelling at him, shaming or berating him because those things would only make him resent me and feel bad about himself. That’s the opposite of what a parent should do for their child.
I don’t waste my breath because children don’t learn from our words, especially if our words don’t match our actions. They learn from the examples we set. When we’re hypocrites, why should anyone, particularly children, trust us?
Spoiler alert: They shouldn’t.
“When we become untrustworthy, children are less likely to cooperate.”
— Josette Luvmour
When I say we’re hypocrites, here’s what I mean.
A long, long (long) time ago, I was a tween at Canada’s Wonderland, a theme park with rollercoasters and candy floss and all that good stuff. I was in line for pizza and there were three kids in front of me. Two of them looked to be slightly younger than me (probably around 10), and I’d guess the younger child was around 6.
Based on context, I surmised that the two 10-ish year olds were friends, and one of them was the older sibling to the younger child. The younger kid was getting antsy and climbing around on the bars meant to delineate the route those in line should follow.
(I definitely did that as a kid… and sometime as an “adult” too).
I can’t remember exactly what happened next, but at some point the over-stimulated, probably hungry younger sibling hit their older sibling. The older kid slapped their younger sibling’s hand and scolded them, “don’t hit!”
He then turned to his friend and said, “y’know, it’s kinda weird, we tell him not to hit, and then we hit him for hitting…”
Kids these days, amiright?
If we tell our children not to hit, yell, or lie, but then we do those exact things to them, why the hell should they listen to us?
That’s right, they shouldn’t.
If an adult tells a child to do something but that adult has no connection or relationship with that child, why would that child listen to a stranger, regardless of what fancy title they have before their name?
If an adult does have a relationship with a child, and asks them to do something stupid, unreasonable, unfair, or downright dangerous, I sure hope they don’t listen.
If you’re in a position of authority over children (or anyone, for that matter), but haven’t bothered to make a connection or develop rapport with them, then don’t come whining to me when they are “insubordinate, defiant, willful, obstinate, belligerent,” or “disobedient”.
And yes, people do come to me, because I consult with parents, schools, and other professionals who work with children — and no, I’m not this salty when I am consulting, so I have to get my snark out in my writing because I Am A Professional Person.
Regardless of the adjectives you use to describe someone when you don’t have the skills to work through an issue, that’s a you problem, not a them problem.
Skills over strength
I (mostly) love that my child is strong-willed, opinionated, spirited, and has a mind of his own. Certainly he challenges me, and it can be frustrating at times, but I recognize that’s mostly a me issue, not a him issue.
I do want him to be kind and respectful to people, even when he disagrees with them, which means I need to be kind and respectful to him, even when I disagree with him.
“If they don’t make good choices, we punish them until they remember to be kind… I am going to be unkind to you in the hopes that you snap out of it, and in the future, do the exact opposite of what I am doing to you right now.” — Dr. Jody Carrington
I can hold him accountable and set boundaries, but this can be done in a way that lets him know I care about his feelings, and I am setting certain boundaries because he is not developmentally ready to set his own in those areas of life just yet.
If you want me to just “lay down the law” with no respect for his experience, and expect him to do what I say because I’m bigger and stronger, then I have questions:
- What am I going to do when he’s bigger and stronger?
- What does that teach him about the dynamics of future relationships, if he’s the bigger and stronger one — or if he’s not?
- How do I expect him to learn to set boundaries for himself when he’s older, if I don’t involve him in that process now?
I also want him to develop tact and the maturity to pick his battles wisely… but I am still working on those skills myself, so perhaps we’ll learn together.
Blind obedience is dangerous
Lastly, and most importantly: If I work to suppress his willfulness, to crush his spirit just enough so that he’s “obedient”, what the hell happens when he’s told to do something stupid?
Think for himself?
“Oh hell no, that’s not allowed!”
If he ever finds himself in a situation where someone older, bigger, or in a position of authority over him is directing him to do something that makes him uncomfortable, I sure as hell want him to have the skills — and the cojones — to stand up for himself.
I’ll be there, with lots of grey hairs from the stress of raising him, but proud as hell of my little rebel with lots of causes. ❤
© Jillian Enright, ADHD 2e MB
Carrington, J. (2020). Kids These Days: A game plan for (re)connecting with those we teach, lead, and love. IMpress Books.
Luvmour, J. (2017). Grow Together: parenting as a path to well-being, wisdom, and joy. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.