I don’t want obedient children

Sometimes I think it would be so nice if my children did what I asked the first time. If they didn’t question me, just went and did it (or stopped doing it!). Everything would run smoothly. My patience would never be tested. How nice would that be?

Maybe for a little bit…until I got bored. But what do you think the trade-off would be? Maybe obedient children who grow up to be obedient adults?

Obedience doesn’t sound like such a great thing when you’re an adult does it? If you heard someone described as obedient, what thoughts does it bring to mind? Someone with no mind of their own, who will do what you tell them, who won’t stand up for themselves? Oh no, that’s not what I’m aiming for, and so I do not want ‘obedient’ children.

Children used to be expected to be ‘seen but not heard’, to never answer back, to do as their parents say for no other reason than ‘because I said so!’ Thankfully that has changed a bit, but it does seem to me that a lot of people are still striving for obedience from their children. Or at least that a lot of people expect you to be. The mother in the shopping centre with a screaming child can expect glares and ‘control your child’ comments from passersby. As if children aren’t their own person but more like possessions to be controlled. That your parenting should be judged on how well your children behave, how quiet they are, how obedient they appear. That somehow the tighter grip you have on them, the more you are able to influence them and they will turn into a respectable adult.

I don't want obedient children | Happiness is here

Unfortunately, or fortunately, children aren’t too keen on this idea. They need to test the limits. They want to see how far they can push you, and if you can handle it. They want to know that however they behave they are safe and loved, that you are capable and can handle anything they throw at you. All of this is good! They are learning. All the time. They are learning how to handle different situations, people, and emotions.

And so ‘talking back’ is ok with me (as long as it’s not rudely).

Asking me why they can’t do something is ok with me.

Trying to negotiate with me is ok.

Disagreeing with me is ok.

Big feelings are ok with me, and not something to be frustrated about.

By reacting this way I am teaching them that no matter if someone is bigger, older, or more powerful, it’s ok to question or stand up for what you think is right. That you can also do this in a polite and respectful way. That often things still don’t go your way and how to deal with that. If instead I chose to enforce behaviour with punishment, never let them question me, or didn’t help them with their big emotions, then how would they learn to deal with these situations in the future? How would that effect our relationship? Would they feel valued, respected, and important? Or would they feel powerless? I don’t want my children to grow up to be ‘obedient’ adults, who give in to peer pressure, who are afraid to voice their opinion. Nor do I want them to grow up thinking that the way we interact with people younger than us is by coercion and control. Children are a lot smarter than we give them credit for. They can handle simple age appropriate explanations for things. They deserve reasons for our actions. I doubt I would be happy to do something I didn’t want to do if the only reason I was given was ‘because I said so’. I can extend the same courtesy to my children.

So if I don’t want obedient adults, then no, I don’t want obedient children.

Kids who obey my every wish without question would be super handy when I’m trying to get out the door on time, but I’m parenting with a bigger picture in mind.

I don't want obedient children | Happiness is here‘A person’s a person, no matter how small’ – Dr Seuss



August 21, 2014 at 4:52 am

“By reacting this way I am teaching them that no matter if someone is bigger, older, or more powerful, it’s ok to question or stand up for what you think is right. ”

Love this line. I may not be a parent, but as a former child who was raised with the “must be obedient” mentality, coping with real life has been very difficult. I have little to no personal resources for dealing with authorities who don’t like it when I try to think for myself.

August 21, 2014 at 5:51 am

Love this !!!! I’m a mother of 2 and always loved reading different things I’m new to blogging so check me out to ♡♡♡

August 21, 2014 at 7:54 pm

Great post. I totally agree with this. I too, parent with the bigger picture in mind. My husband loves to remind me of this when I appear to forget: “we’re raising an independent child with the ability to think for himself and not just ‘do he as is told'”, – except for when I need something done, lol.
I am thoroughly enjoying your posts

August 22, 2014 at 4:39 pm

Love this! I have recently changed to this style of parenting and gosh I wish I had learnt about it earlier. When you know better do better and that is what I am trying to do.

August 23, 2014 at 12:00 am

So true!

Happy Mumm
September 23, 2014 at 12:34 am

I want obedient and respectful children; I want to teach them that they need to respect authority and how to tactfully disagree when appropriate. It doesn’t make them a door mat, it makes them prepared for the real world.

    November 12, 2014 at 2:10 am

    Well said Happy Mumm. I was hoping I’d read a comment from someone with a tinge of common sense. The author seems to utterly mistake the difference between obedience and assertiveness, as if being one, means you can not be the other. I was brought up in a home where obedience was the way forward…by some strange and magical power I am also assertive (on occasion too much so), understand and respect authority, know when to question it and when not to and have no problem in standing up with things that are wrong. This was a totally separate skill taught to me at the appropriate age. If your child does not know that they must obey, what happens to the four year old who runs off ahead of you into the middle of the road but won’t stop when you say because they know the issue is up for discussion? Learning to respect authority…and TRUST the authority in our lives using the skills of discernment, is a massive skill that many parents no longer teach and as a result there is a generation of kids growing up with a totally flawed perspective of their own self importance.

      November 17, 2014 at 9:43 am

      We’ll just have to disagree then. Obedience is definitely not a favorable trait in my view.

        September 1, 2016 at 5:19 am

        Hmmm…another way to approach this is to have the goal of teaching children to be respectful and resourceful, to be cooperative at appropriate times, to discern legitimate authority, to work well with others and learn the difference between aggression and assertiveness, interdependence and independence, and how all of it fits together. It seems appropriate to me for children to stop when they’re told to stop (lest they learn that it’s okay to trample over the rights of others), hop in their caregiver’s car when they’re told it’s time to leave the park without throwing a tantrum or running off to go down the slide one more time, freeze without asking why so that when it counts (like a couple of bees are buzzing around their curly hair and they’re swatting madly at them, having an automatic response to the word freeze really helps!), etc. There are pretty good reasons to teach children to respond quickly, thoroughly and completely to directions. Children, by definition, don’t always see the bigger picture and ordinary life becomes dangerous when they can’t be relied on to follow directions. Cooperative kids are also easier for other kids to play with, safer for parents to rely on as neighborhood babysitters, more likely to have healthy friendships, make for a more relaxed household, can be trusted with a lot of freedom as they grow older. It’s also reasonable to expect caregivers to treat their children with respect, to not demand inappropriate tasks, not to teach them to allow others to walk all over them, etc. All of this goes together. When my oldest was 3, one of his friends who was 4 was on a walk around the block with us. They ran ahead on the sidewalk next to a busy street. No big deal, I thought, just call them back. I mildly called out for them to come back. My oldest mildly trotted back. The little girl did not. She went closer to the road for a dandelion. There were cars going 30 miles an hr not 20 inches from her. I felt a well of panic spread through me. My very pregnant self tried to start running toward her and a horn blared as she stood there looking at me, questioning in an annoyed voice, “Why?!” I started to yell at her to get on the sidewalk. “WHY!?” “The cars are dangerous!” “Why?!” I reached her and grabbed her away from another car with a blaring horn screeching past. That is when obedience is necessary. It’s not mindless in the long term, it’s a caregiver and child in tune with each other, everyone knows their role for that time period in their lives as adult/child, there’s trust, responsibility, safety and good social skills. When I see cooperative, pleasant children in schools, I see mature kids. They know how to respond to others, they know how to follow directions, when to keep quiet and when to speak…they also know how to address wrongs and how to stand up for themselves. They know how to teach others and how to lead younger kids kindly. It’s a win-win in my eyes. All of that said, this article seems to want to point out that children should be respected as human in their own right, not owned by their parents. I can get behind that. I also want to be able to save my kid from angry bees, keep them safe from traffic, leave the park with 5 kids in 2 minutes flat, not have fights at bedtime, and have confidence that they’ll follow my directions in unforseen emergencies with no established rules without them wasting time with questions.

      Radish Hi
      May 17, 2015 at 12:44 pm

      I have a real problem with this example, Kathryn. Raising free thinking children is not raising kids that think it is okay to run out into traffic. It is raising kids who know it’s okay to ask “Why can’t I run?”, and then respecting them enough to give them an explanation. When you explain the reason for a direction it holds way more value. When you say “you can’t run into the road because you could get seriously hurt”, they understand it isn’t just an arbitrary rule. And remember, one day they are going to be grown up and have to make decisions for themselves. All these kids who aren’t doing this or that because mom and dad say so… well one day mom and dad aren’t going to be there and if they don’t understand *why* all those rules are important they aren’t going to be able to make informed decisions for themselves. I’ve seen plenty a “good kid” spiral out of control with their first real taste of freedom.

      Gregory Walker
      June 24, 2017 at 7:14 am

      I could not have put that any better, whilst no one wants to raise door mats there is a huge difference in raising children that have their own minds but can still be respectful of authoritative people and in particular their elders. How are these children ever going to hold down jobs if they can not take instruction without questioning it? We all need to be told what to do in some circumstances, we are not all born leaders and we have to learn how to start at the bottom and work our way up in life. I think the minute schools were told punishment was off the table was when things started to go down hill, whilst I do not want to see children beaten, punishment is necessary to let children know there are boundaries and they have to respect that or suffer consequences. Without this we are on a loosing side and the child wins, consequently parents who are not allowed to punish their children are also unable to lead the way when children insist on taking the wrong path. Don’t get me wrong as I do not agree with beatings but the thought of a smack on the rear is one of the best deterrents children will face and going forward since prohibition things have gone down hill rapidly. Worst is how parents now side with the child if a teacher has merely told them off, when I was younger had I been told off by my teacher I would of received additional punishment by my parents for being naughty. How times have changed and not for the better in my humble opinion

      Jeff Bennett
      March 12, 2019 at 9:59 am

      I actually agree too. The author definitely must have been in a household where parents let every subject of “needing to do” be up for debate. There’s nothing wrong with having one’s own personality and character and coming into one’s self. But there is something wrong when you have a child question everything said by an adult as if it was up for debate. I don’t know many adults who’s set their children up for failure when it comes to their safety and well-being. I’m not one of them. So yes, I want an obedient child, who becomes a RESPECTFUL adult, not an OBEDIENT one. BIG DIFFERENCE.

    Radish Hi
    May 17, 2015 at 12:28 pm

    I never understand this mentality. Why is respecting authority on the basis that they are authority a good thing? Authority should be questioned. Authority is people. Just people, like you and I. And people are fallible. They can be wrong. They can be corrupt. Not questioning authority can be dangerous. In fact, had we never questioned authority, we wouldn’t even exist as a nation. I’m not saying you should rebel against “the man” on sheer principle, but I will teach my child it is okay to question authority. Even mine, because I have enough sense to know that I’m not always right; I mange mistakes too, like everyone else.

September 27, 2014 at 2:29 am

We need to raise our kids on a spectrum of love, kindness, trust, structure, and discipline. Its a balancing act all of us as parents need to weigh out individually based on our kids and who we are as adults and its HARD… which is why the “how to be a good parent” debate is ongoing. Some of us are better at one end of the spectrum and have to work to keep up on the other, which needs to be a conscious effort to keep the balance, to raise kids to be balanced adults who are free thinkers yet good members of society.

Keesha Pryce
September 30, 2014 at 12:20 am

I agree children should be allowed to voice their opinion. I too want to raise independent thinkers but I recognize there is a thin line that can easily be crossed. This morning I had a chat with my two boys 10 and 8 years old. I want them to do what I say, like go brush your teeth, or change into your clothes for school, the first time I ask. Since that is not the case right now I told them that we will be working on correcting that. But I also give them tons of opportunities to tell me how they feel, I ask questions , I allow for them to ask for five more minutes before bed etc. Life is about balance and I want them to learn that there are times when you do as you are told, and times when you do as you choose and other times a combination of the two or who knows maybe even throw in a fourth or fifth option.

Radish Hi
May 17, 2015 at 12:31 pm

Thank you so much for this. It really resonated with me. I made a promise to myself that as a parent I would never, ever utter the words: “Because I said so”.

October 1, 2015 at 11:51 pm

Love this!! Although I agree with this I have a question I’m hoping someone can help with!?!?I feel I someyimes struggle to work out how to balance/discern obidience and respect. I explain and talk through everything with my son and show him respect like any other human being so I try and teach him to also show me respect the same way I respect him ( balance of give and take etc) but sometimes get worried he may take it as I’m telling him how to act to suit me not that I’m teaching him to treat others as he would like to be treated. Does that make sense!????

    October 6, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    Hi Kat! I guess it depends how you’re going about it? How are you teaching him to show you respect?
    I would just model respect, and also set firm but loving boundaries about how you are comfortable with being treated, e.g. ‘I won’t let you hit me’.

April 15, 2016 at 3:54 pm

What a thought…I know I cant Master the Art of Parenting, but thanks for sharing a different perspective which has put me to rethink….Thank you ☺

June 23, 2017 at 9:08 pm

I so appreciate this. As a child who was raised with a family full of big emotions, but also strong armed by my father, this really resonates with me. At almost 40, my father still diminishes my feelings and mocks my thoughts/ideas. Its cruel and demoralizing. It has made me see how I don’t want my children to feel.

June 26, 2017 at 2:08 am

As an educator of young learners, I believe there is a fine line of balance between obedience and respect. I love when children question the world — the whys and the hows, however, there are times children need to be told “stop” or “no”. I believe in using positive language as much as possible, but there are some kids that pay little or no attention to positive discipline. Through my experience, these are the kids that “run the house” at home. They know there are little to no consequences for their actions. This makes teaching difficult. Communication is key . . . however, when you have a 5-year-old tell you she finds you annoying when you are asking her to do things . . . this is a problem. In a classroom of 20 early learners — all it takes is one “disobedient” child to make learning difficult for others. Where is the respect for their peers? The adults? Sure, she can voice her opinion, but she must learn that words and actions can hurt others. I love my job and I love “my ” kids, but emotional intelligence starts at home and kids need to be taught obedience on some level. Again, balance is key . . .

    June 26, 2017 at 2:10 pm

    Why is it a problem for a child to express their feelings?
    Definitely aware that school expects obedience. That’s why we don’t use it. We prefer a respectful learning environment.

    June 26, 2017 at 2:12 pm

    “As we are not honest with them, so we won’t let children be honest with us. To begin with, we require them to take part in the fiction that school is a wonderful place and that they love every minute of it. They learn early that not to like school or the teacher is verboten, not to be said, not even to be thought.
    Children hear all the time, “Nice people don’t say such things.” They learn early in life that for unknown reasons they must not talk about a large part of what they think and feel, are most interested in, and worried about. It is a rare child who, anywhere in his growing up, meets even one older person with whom he can talk openly about what most interests him, concerns him, and worries him.” -John Holt

Concerned Primary Teacher
June 26, 2017 at 3:16 am

Concerned Primary Teacher
JUNE 26, 2017 AT 2:27 AM
This way of thinking is everything that is wrong with this new generation of children coming into the schools now. Young children are talking back to teachers in an alarming disrespectful way. They are doing whatever they “feel” like doing during instruction time and on the playground with their peers. Their reasoning for their behavior more often than not is “because I wanted to”. Sadly my list could go on and on of these disturbing changes that I have seen happening over the last decade.

You can age appropriately discipline children and still give them an explanation as to why. You can be taught to be obedient and still have a respectful voice at an appropriate time.

I absolutely love my job as a teacher, and as a teacher we always discipline with explanation. There is a parenting area in between this articles way of thinking and the old school way. Coming from an educator, you are only creating a more difficult transition for your son or daughter when they go to school.

Look at me, I’m an obedient respectful adult that is using my voice to speak up for the next generation.

    June 26, 2017 at 6:10 am

    Well said! I agree with you!!! Respect starts at home and if kids are not provided the proper tools before entering school and/or life they may have more problems adjusting. I believe children are little people who should have a say . . . however, with limitations. Young children need our guidance. They need to be taught the difference between right or wrong, good and bad. If we leave it up to them . . . well, they may never learn. Giving children freedom is good, but so is appropriate discipline. As an adult, there are rules I must obey . . . I understand the importance of obeying these rules . . . it if part of life. Children must learn the same.

    June 26, 2017 at 2:15 pm

    Right. This is why we didn’t send them to school. Well aware the aim is obedience and conformity and that’s not a recipe for a fulfilled and happy childhood. Thanks for reaffirming why we opted out of that nonsense.

      Concerned Primary Teacher
      June 30, 2017 at 4:38 am

      That’s a hilarious response! Let’s talk again when your children need to join the workforce. Let me guess they aren’t going to do that either because they will need to conform to rules.

        June 30, 2017 at 7:18 am

        A predictable “argument” that I have covered before…

        Our children are more than just future employees. They are actual people.

        We know that teachers want to believe that obedience and conformity are necessary and that school is crucial for preparing children for life, otherwise how could they justify doing it? But it’s just not reality.

        The fact that you think it’s hilarious not to force children to conform is concerning and exactly the type of attitude we wouldn’t want our children around 5 days a week. What a way to stifle someone.

        June 30, 2017 at 1:13 pm

        To the “school teacher”: As an employer, I find your comments here very unnerving. You do not show any understanding of what companies are looking for in new employees nor what they need from the new generation to help keep or obtain competitive edge. More and more companies (like mine) are finding novel ways to show flexible working conditions to promote innovation and production; the old ways of 9 – 5 factory ethic are dead and for good reason. The new business leaders are companies that disrupt existing industry and this is only achieved by out of the box thinking, somthing that is not really possible in the existing school system. The last two people I hired did not finish school and yet beat people who had completed masters degrees in the field. Why? Because these people could demonstrate real life experience, passion, confidence, and attitude; not something you learn in a text book or government decided curriculum. So next time you try to argue your point and to justify the role you play in the education system, please make sure your responses are researched and based on current factual evidence – surely they teach you this at school?

          October 5, 2017 at 4:00 am

          I utterly agree with this article and Angus. I used to see sucessful people who had dropped out of school early (like myself) and say ‘look, it never did them any harm’, as I have got older and had a sucessful career myself I have come to realise the opposite, school can damage people’s chances in this modern workplace (obviously depending on what field you want to go I to!). Over my lifetime the world has utterly changed (I’m 30), I remember the old bbc computer in my classroom in the early 90’s and look at us now! The next generation need to be different, they will be facing problems and challenges I (and those older than me) never had to face. Interestingly for all our school is best ethos in this country we do very poorly in literacy and numeracy compared to countries who let their children learn through self directed play until they are 7, and who perhaps require less ‘obedience”. We will also not be sending our children to school.

          Susan A
          May 6, 2019 at 6:42 am

          I’ve been saying to this to everyone I know, and it all falls on deaf ears, My 12-year-old daughter has a passion for cooking right now. (Heck there are kids on the food network cooking like the adults… Master chef JR, to kids baking competitions. I let her decide on what to make for dinner a lot and she is pretty creative But I do know that if she decides to be a chef or just a home cook, or a food truck operator or whatever she decides to do in life she will be happy. She also knows that she can be good at more than one thing. She also knows that there is not only one right answer to everything.

July 23, 2017 at 5:29 am

Hi there! For clarification: “if my children did what I asked the first time. If they didn’t question me, just went and did it (or stopped doing it!).” would that be the definition of obedience?

July 1, 2018 at 7:00 am

I can see both sides of the discussion. On one side, we need a society who obeys the laws, repects themselves and others and works productively. We also need people who “think outside the box” giving us wonderful innovations in science and technology. This is why there are different parenting styles. We need all these people. One group is not right or wrong and your children will take what they liked from your parenting, throw away what they didn’t, add some things they thought up on their own, and try things they read about and create a whole new parenting style. We need this too. Just think how boring (and scary) this world would be if all the children were the same (shades of nazi Germany, anyone). So celebrate this wonderful diversity and stop arguing. For some of your methods, the psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, etc., thank you for keeping them in business. For others, the criminal justice and social services systems thank you. All of you parents are in the job market, one way or another. Just remember this: train up a child in the way they should go, and when they are old, they will not depart from it. Do you want your child on the receiving end of the above mentioned services, providing those services, or gainfully employed elsewhere? You have the awesome responsibility of getting them on the right track, and keeping them there until they’re 18. I suggest alot of time on your knees, but that’s just my style :). So, those of you who are doing it “right”, stop worrying about those who are “screwing it up”. One group is creating jobs for the other: win-win.

August 5, 2022 at 5:20 am

I agree with Happy Mum above and the one under her. I was raised by a mother who used the phrase “because I said so” and I can tell you it did not stop me one bit from being (tou dont BECOME, your born wirh that personality) that child and now adult to question things. I was a difficult child and a stubborn adult to this day, wanting to always question things. I look back on my parents as doing the best they thought at the time and for rhe time. As a parent of 3 boys myself, now also adults.I found myself understanding more of why I was taught the way I was. Iv learned that not every child is the same, have the same personality, traits and so forth. Each one of my boys are different in so many ways, Yet have some of the same traits as they are a mix of mine and my husband’s genes. Two of then needed little to mo disabling and the third, much like myself, pushed me to the edge so many times I lost count.All raised the same, same parents, same household. All grew up to be good men. I also had a abusive father (not the man I was raised by) come into my life in my late teens, as he decided that was the appropriate time to introduce himself. So I learned from him the difference between what discipline and abuse was. That to me is the problem today. Is some adult’s do not. They are afraid of disciplining thier children in fear of it being looked at as abuse. The simple rules is easy. Stay away from the 4 B”s. No blood,broken bones or bruise or bad feelingss and then you know it is not abuse. By bad feelings I mean if your child HATES you, is scared of you or feels in anyway that they are not loved or doesn’t love you, then you know you crossed the line. I always said to my mom, I may dislike you (or things she said or did) but I always loved her.My sperm done however is a whole other story.

August 5, 2022 at 5:25 am

Sorry for the text mistakes. I do not have my glasses and my keyboard on my phone is small for my swollen fingers. So I apologize for the grammer errors.

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