Do You Want to Raise an Obedient Child?

Photography: Fran Jorgensen |

By Dr. Laura Markham

“Morality is doing what’s right no matter what you’re told. Obedience is doing what you’re told no matter what’s right.” – H.L. Mencken

Most parents feel embarrassed when their child doesn’t obey them. When we say jump, they’re supposed to jump, right? If they don’t, isn’t that evidence that we’re lousy parents?

Actually, no. It would certainly be more convenient if our children would respond to our raised eyebrow by jumping to it. But it may even be dangerous to raise a child who obeys automatically, who swallows his objections and does what he’s told without question. Here’s why.

Obedient children grow into obedient adults. They’re less likely to stand up for themselves, more likely to be taken advantage of. They’re also capable of simply following orders without question, without taking responsibility for their actions.

Even for children, unquestioning obedience isn’t healthy. Here are a few situations that children I know have confronted in the past year:

A three year old was molested by an older child.

A five year old was molested by an older child.

A six year old was screamed at, up close and personal, by a coach.

An eight year old was bullied.

An eleven year old was recruited by the mean girls to participate in their behavior.

A twelve year old was offered drugs.

A fourteen year old was date-raped by a boy at a party.

Are these children responsible for what happened to them? Of course not, and neither are their parents. No matter what.

AND if they had been able to say “No!” louder, would these events still have unfolded as they did?

Maybe. Maybe not. We can’t know. But we do know that bullies and molesters select targets who they think won’t stand up for themselves. We know that experts say children should be trained to resist abductors. Research shows that teens are more resistant to peer pressure if they’re used to asserting their opinions with their parents.

The truth is, no parent can know what her child will have to face, so we can only give them all the inner resources we can. One resource is the ability to stand up for herself; to raise her voice and refuse to go along with the person who is trying to take advantage.

See page 2 for the rest of the article…

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