I’ll say it.
I expect my children to be obedient and cheerfully so, not sullen (though I shall accept sullen obedience to defiance and still resolve to work on the attitude later :)). I expect that if I give a direction, or an answer, that is how it. I freely admit my children are a work in progress (aren’t we all, thankfully for Grace) and while I do not always GET what I expect, that does not change the expectation. I understand why my expectation is not universally met, I accept the limits of their ages and abilities and we continue the learning process. I am raising my children, teaching them, molding them; God is not done with me or them. I am the parent, and they are – gasp – CHILDREN. My main job is not to be my children’s buddy, but it is to be their parent. Obey and obedience — are hot words … they convey a lot in a small package — but there is a lot of leeway for the “hearer” to assume a lot from the word much that may not be the intent of the speaker. There are certain terms that carry baggage for everyone, and that baggage determines what a person ‘understands’ when they hear a term much more so than what the term means to the person that choosing to use it. Some words are so charged they take on a life of their own — and the same is true of the concept of “expecting obedience” as well as the concept of “attachment parenting” or “gentle discipline”.
It is my job, my responsibility to raise my children to teach them, to mold them and then to launch them in to the world as functional and useful mature adults that can contribute and solve problems, not create more. I am creating children that will, as adults, build up society. My children are young, very young actually, and there is a lot of road to cover before they are ‘ready to launch’ and many expectations not met today, will be more commonly met tomorrow and the tomorrow after that.
I expect, require my children (3 and 5) to obey with out asking. BUT I, as a parent, make sure we do discuss my thoughts and reasons when it is feasible to do so. I do this because it is important to how I parent; it is important to us because of how we interact with out children. Again, I am not saying my children consistently behavior in the manner; some days they consistently do NOT behave in the desired manner; they are children, each day we just keep doing the best in every situation we (adults and children) can. That is my responsibility as a parent, I am teaching them to think and to understand; but thinking and understanding come after doing; for the very young anyway. Habit first, muscle memory; then move on to the thinking. I do not want a routine practice of “questioning mom every time she says something” – I do want a habit of obedience. I accept polite questions AFTER they have obeyed; I do not tolerate defiant challenging or arguing. I still encounter it, trust me. Nevertheless it is not an ok behavior; and we continue to work on it. I do not want robots, I want correctly thinking children (and someday adults) and that requires an understanding of the reasons behind decisions; so that they can evaluate for themselves, as adults, the morality and validly of directions or requirements. At 3 and 5 they are not capable of the level of thought Daddy or I are and they don’t know the world like we do; and sadly there are things I do not wish to explain to them; thing they should not know about or worry about until they are older.
There are choices and decisions in this life that parents are required to make, we have the experience and the worldly understanding to grasp so much more than our children are able to. I expect our children to obey me, not debate me or argue with me. For example if we stop at a park to play, and after school hours a number of teens show up being loud and behaving in a rude manner (overt sexual language, coarse language, smoking maybe) I tell my boys it is time for us to leave, and we do so. I do not feel that is the correct time or place for a long discussion with them about why I am choosing to cut our park visit short; I want them to quickly and cheerfully load up in the van. After we leave I most likely will tell them we had to leave because the older kids arrive and were making poor choices, but I still do not want to discuss the sexual tone I choose to lave a situation like that to shield my boys, not so I can then have to discuss the very thing I wanted to avoid. Take it a step further; we are out and about and I spot a threatening or suspicious individual; again I expect them to obey momma telling them it is time to leave; and I do not wish to debate it.
Obedience is a habit, it is a foundation; that stable and strong will allow for children to learn and grow. Consider this: a child or pre-teen that is constantly arguing with his parents, fighting every instruction, questing. When is that child going to learn, and to understand and to see the wisdom in the parent’s directions? If a child’s attitude is one of constant challenge they are never able to internalize the adult’s warning, advice or reasoning; because they are forever set in combat mode with the parent or adult. If the child is used to, and constantly questing, or challenging or doubting or fighting with the parent the child is never going to internalize the instruction because that simply will not be the tone of the relationship.
As they grow and are able to understand more, and think in a more complex fashion then we will discuss more and explain more and facilitate their own moral reasoning and critical thinking skills. Nevertheless the rock upon which this is built is obedience. Children learn the HABIT of stopping when momma says STOP long before they are able to pull their thoughts off the ball they are chasing, look around, realize they are headed towards a pond, and then think about the possible negative outcomes and decide to stop all in the spilt second it takes for a child to fall into a pond and drown.
Obedience is a habit. Obedience is a statement of faith. God expect us to obey and we all know God does not explain the entire Plan to use and ask if we agree; He does and expects us to do trusting Him. Remember the story of Jael, a house wife, and how she put a tent stake though the head of Sisera, the enemy general? (Judges 4) it is a story of simply obedience, Jael followed God and was obedient. Do you think God woke her that morning and told her today she would kill an enemy general with a tent stake? The way my children learn to listen to me, and obey me is the way they will listen to God and either hear, trust and obey or rebel.
Some worry about expecting unquestioning obedience because they fear it is overly optimistic to hope that our children ONLY obey us without question. They fear that after such a habit or expectation is instilled in our children that behavior (quick unarguing obedience) will spill out into other parts of their lives and they tend to give the same obedience to most authority figures. Then you run the very real risk of their obedience leading to abuse. I agree this is a risk, however I have to feel that the attitude and actions of the parent in some way inoculate the child, as they age, from this risk. A child that is obedient to a loving and trust worth parent that has time after time been “proven out” is not going to continue to obey someone of questionable morality that is not ‘proven’. In cases of abuse, then yes, abuse begets abuse. Abused children frequently end up in abusive adult relationships; but that is not situation we are discussing here.
(and frankly this issues is one issue I cite for homeschooling a child under the age of reason, a child that is not old enough to evaluate independently regulations and requests should not be under the control of anyone other than the parents or someone specifically chosen personally by the parents)