The Question Of Obedience

I just returned from my parents’ place. With ‘the star’ being in such a dangerous phase when anything can happen while you bat your eyelids; it was difficult. Our home is more or less child-proofed. But wherever we visit, whether a resort or family, things are lying all around, so I have to be on my toes all the time.

The Question Of Obedience - Obedience In Children - Kid's Desire To Learn

So while I would help out mom in the kitchen, the little one would pull out card from TV set-top box or bang the glass in the windows or climb up the chair or dig out the concealed wiring, and so on and so forth. I would keep listening to dad saying ‘No this. No that. Don’t pull out the card. Don’t mess up the newspaper.’ And it would make me smile, while still being in the next room. His experience of handling a toddler is a bit rusted. My son is the first kid he is handling after me.

This brings me to a question which keeps popping in my mind all the time:

Should children ‘obey’ their parents or elders?

The word ‘obey’ itself sounds so derogatory and disrespectful. Why do we seek obedience in the first place? The biggest reason is convenience. When you have kids who follow your orders, you are saved of all the arguments, questions, counter-questions, explanations, and physical inconveniences. I say, you obey and life will be so smooth. But do we want to raise such children who just follow orders because ‘I said so’ or because ‘we know better’?

The worse kind is seeking obedience through intimidation or hitting. When you instill fear in the little ones, you kill their desire to explore and the fire to discover. Kids are naturally curious and that’s how they learn.

At the moment, my child is very young but even now I want to do my best not to come into his way of discovering life. I never said I was perfect. Of course, I tell him not to do a lot of things but most of the time; I try to explain why his actions can be dangerous for him. Many times I even let him do a few things which are risky, while watching over him, for example, sliding the glass window open and shut or hanging by the chair precariously.

Sometimes he slips. Sometimes he is hurt a little. But that is the only way kids learn. We cannot teach them theory all the time. They need to ‘do’ to ‘make sense’ of the world around. Having said that, I am not recommending that we let our children get hurt in order to learn, rather what I am saying is not to stop them all the time because every single thing may end up hurting them.

Sometimes when he just goes about his business, doing his own thing, irrespective of what his grand-dad says; deep inside I feel proud. The other day he started pulling out all our shoes one by one. My dad kept telling him not to do it because they were dirty. But I said ‘what’s the harm?’He spent almost half an hour organising and re-organising all the shoes. Of course, I was watching and of course, after he was done, I washed his hands and legs properly; but I loved every moment of it.

I would rather have a child who has a mind of his own and a good judgement, over someone who just follows my orders. It is obvious our children need these life skills.

Reema Sahay is a Stay-At-Home-Mom, Freelance Writer, Voracious Reader, Passionate Blogger, Social Media Enthusiast, Internet Junkie and Ex-Marketing Communication Professional. She spends her days running after her very curious toddler, ‘the star’, and catching up on books when he naps. She writes about charms and challenges of life at Pen Paper and shares her passion for books at Recommend Books. She sometimes feels that her 5.5 years stint in Marketing Communication was in another life.

  • Agree with you completely…there are times when my 2 year old pulls all the sofa cushions on floor..arranges them…lie on them…and so on. I also let her do few of her favorite but risky stunts like she want to drive her cycle backwards and then bump with something, Twice she got hurt, she now rides it slowly 🙂

    • Ha ha ha they really don’t get the theory. When they do something, they learn better and faster. Moreover, I am sure when she plays with cushions, you also get breather for some time.
      My son would also pick up pillows from bedroom and take them one by one to his play area, and then the cushions from the living room. This activity gives release to his energy and at least 15-30 minutes to me 🙂 It just takes me 5 minutes to re-arrange all the pillows and cushions.

  • Agree, most of us are habitual of saying ‘No!’ to everything a child does…
    I would neither say ‘No’ nor ‘Yes’ to everything a child does… I believe it has to be in moderation… there is a need to strike a balance between the two.
    A friend believes in letting the child do whatever she wants to… it is ok to do in certain things, to let the child explore and learn but not stopping her when she drops the food and eats from the floor (I guess, the child is too young to understand that she got a stomach infection because she ate the food from the floor) or when she is hitting other kids… well, a ‘No’ has to come in!

  • I know what you mean Shilpa. Yes, everything in moderation is required. But honestly, I am tired of telling my son he cannot drop food on floor and eat from there. I just pick up the food and show him that I am throwing it away as it dropped on floor. Many times, you really don’t know what to do. But yes, he does not get away with everything. I am a big believer in discipline. As long as there is no real harm to anybody, I let him be. I let him do small chores to help me around the house like getting cloth clips, watering plants, keeping utensils back in the cabinets, etc.

  • I too have these questions with my determined child and try to hit the balance.
    Read my views and tips here:

    • Thanks for the link Divya. I would say we have similar views on the topic 🙂

  • Of course, it may just be semantics but I think ‘obedience’ is different from ‘following orders’.

    When a parent excepts her child to obey her, it is generally for one of many reasons, most valid. Sometimes for convenience yes, but most often because something is potentially dangerous and you would rather that the child obey you right away than get hurt badly and learn the hard way. Sometimes because you want them to conform to societal rules and expectations – while we all want our children to be independent-minded and creative, at some level, we also don’t want them to stand out too much and be left out perhaps, I think. And finally, in the long run, I think obedience at some level is about developing discipline and a healthy respect for authority – all of which will be expected of a fully-functioning adult who hopes to fit into the working world and society without rubbing people the wrong way too much.

    I agree that too much of discipline can kill a child’s curiosity and desire to explore, but too much of latitude could also lead to irreverence, thoughtlessness and selfishness. I guess, in this as in all else in a child’s life, the trick is in finding the balance, as Divya points out. And we can continue to hope that we are raising a well-balanced and mature individual.

    Kritika Srinivasan

  • Kritika, thank you for taking time to put forth your views. Yes, I also believe parenting is such a journey when you do what you are convinced is best for your child. And as Divya said, each one of us needs to find our own groove and balance.
    Personally, I let him do a lot of things around the house, which may be considered a little bit risky by some parents but I watch him all the time. Of course, I would not let him fiddle with live wires or balcony railings. Some things are just out of bounds. But if he likes taking out all the utensils from all the cabinets (including the heavier ones), I let him be.
    My child is very young right now (just 21 months), so the words like discipline and authority are not on my mind yet. Let’s see how it goes when he grows older. But honestly, I would hate to ever tell him do things because ‘I said so’.

  • Obey!!

    That is a word that is slipping out of the lexicon these days and has no place or relevance anywhere in the world. Perhaps for the armed forces, but not anywhere else.

    To be told to ones bidding is crippling of possibilities that a child brings with. A little bit of guidance, a lot of conversation, facilitating of reflection and some good old laughter works as well. Seeking ‘obedience’ often has results contrary to the objective!

    Ofcourse I would like my daughter to have those same qualities that you conclude the post by! Judgement and choice! That will see them through!

  • Very well articulated. Thank you. I too believe if I expect him to have a mind of his own then I should offer opportunities to develop such attributes. More so when he is a little older.