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Jen

Who's the Boss Around Here?

Posted by Jen on September 30, 2010 at 9:21 AM
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My friend Ria Sharon of Yoga Parenting recently told me about an element of her parenting course that cultivates critical thinking over obedience in our children.

"This is not the world where we grew up," she told me. "Kids are expected to think for themselves and to know how to make good decisions. Teaching them to blindly obey sets them up for all kinds of problems. It's actually more valuable for them long term to know how to form honest opinions and to know how to to trust their intuition than to go along with the program."

I was scandalized. What?? Teaching kids to speak up? What kind of chaos would ensue under such mandates? No more bedtime? Endless television? Sugar cereal?

But then my own parenting style came quickly into focus. I am holding the line daily on healthy and heartful behaviors, but I am also regularly building in room for dissent. My kids know they have the space they need to suggest other options, to give reasons for alternatives and to argue a good case for doing it exactly how I just asked it not to be done.

Defiance? Or just good solid freedom to act and think?

All parents, I believe, fall somewhere on the continuum. I, for one, was deeply schooled in the listen and obey program, and it has served me well. I know how to follow instructions without discussion. I don't have to understand or subscribe to your values or program in order to be able to implement your plan. This makes for good workers--of which the world needs many, but I'm not sure it's made me a clear thinker when it comes to executing my own values and plans.

On the other hand, I'm not sure my kids in their current incarnation have enough experience in compliance. They're on their own program in many ways, and I don't know if they'll be able to enter the work force and do someone else's bidding when the time comes. Or even if they'll want to. (Note to self: Work on this before the apartment above the garage is occupied forever.)

What say you, parents of the internet? Do you think mayhem happens if we forgo obedience training and hop on the free thinking caravan instead? Can our kids handle the task of thinking for themselves or are we unnecessarily burdening them with a responsibility that is too soon to bear?

I'd like to hear your two cents in the comments below.

1 Comments

Amber writes...

I am definitely on the free thinking caravan. In the long run, I think it's more important that my children understand how to make good decisions. And I think that in many jobs, these skills are valued above compliance. For example, I was an engineer for years. In that role, I had to be creative and engage in complex problem-solving. Doing as I was told wasn't sufficient.

Of course, there are lines in the sand and rules at my house. I am concerned for my children's safety, and it's important to me that they are respectful of others, including me. I also ensure that they are eating healthy food and so on. But if they disagree with my decision in an area, they're free to discuss it with me, and sometimes my 5-year-old has a point.

As a kid, so many decisions are made for you. You have so little control over your life. So I try to give my own kids the freedom to control their destinies as much as possible, while still ensuring that everyone is safe and treating others well.

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