What happens when we release our children (and ourselves) from the expectation of obedience?
Let’s get real for a moment.
Not everything we ask, expect, say, or do is okay, appropriate, or considerate.
So why do we expect our teens to “fall in line” without paying attention to their needs or points of view? We know they have them, yet we all too frequently expect that they’ll cut themselves off from their feelings and opinions. Or, at the very least, not express them when we’re in a hurry or in front of relatives.
Years ago, I came across parenting advice along the lines of teaching your child to be obedient by making it “FUN” to say “Yes, Mommy!” Of course, we can choose to manipulate our younger children using games and tricks for a while, but at what cost? And when they tire of the manipulation, start to push back, and express their opinions and feelings, what subsequent manipulation awaits to get them back in line?
Are you ready for the withdrawal, disconnection, or head-butting that ensues?
The generations before us valued obedience, but they also put a lot of stock into believing and ensuring that children were seen, not heard. Unfortunately, too many of us are products of that framework. As a result, it’s easy to assume we’re “unaffected” because “we turned out okay”… even though we struggle to communicate and be heard as adults.
Think about it.
How many relationships in your adult life enforced the notion that what you have to say doesn’t matter?
Just do what you’re told.
How often do you hold back from speaking because you don’t feel there’s any point in trying?
Just be quiet.
They’re going to do what they want anyway.
How often do you overlook taking care of yourself because of the pressure to show up, put up, and give more?
Just do what they want. It’s easier to give in than take a stand.
Is this really what we want to perpetuate?
What becomes possible when we show our teens to pay attention and ask for what they want and need instead of making the demand for obedience?
What if we teach them to look after themselves, consider others, and give them space to develop their own points of view?
What if we demonstrate respect for their “No!” or “Enough!”?
What if we teach them how to use the power of their voice to invite conversation and negotiation?
What if they understand the value of compromise that respects everyone around the table?
What if we step up and model respect and compassion even during moments of disagreement?
What sort of footprint would that leave?
What sort of future would that help create?
People get nervous around this topic because they fear that not having obedience means disrespect and chaos. The truth is it’s possible to be both disobedient and respectful at the same time.
This approach, although radical to some, is not “permissive” parenting. On the contrary, transitioning from obedience to mutually respectful communication empowers our teenagers to trust themselves and us. The bottom line is they get to own the life they create for themselves.
Lianne is a Certified Family Coach who introduces parents of teenagers to high-impact strategies to build respect, trust and strengthen communication.
Find out more here: www.gettingrealcoach.com