“We make fun of what used to be called ‘yes-men’ at the office, those deferential employees who never disagree with the boss, so what makes us think that ‘yes-children’ would be ideal?” —Alfie Kohn Unconditional Parenting
It is my annual re-reading of my parenting manifesto. I’ve been thinking about my long-term goals for Norah. What characteristics are most important to shape? And are my day-to-day actions mirroring these long-term goals? Or am I simply trying to get by and create a child most convenient for the moment?
My long-term goal is not obedience. Nope. Not at all. I want an independent thinker. One day, she’s going to be a teenager (excuse me while I scream!) and she’ll have all sorts of authoritative voices around her. I certainly don’t want her obeying her creepy karate instructor when he asks her to stay after class and I definitely don’t want her obeying her peers when they ask her to try some new chemical candy. I don’t want her to absorb everything her college professors tell her. I want to teach my child to discern, to question, to weigh, and to decide for herself. Ultimately, I pray she makes good decisions but it is important to me that she understands why she is making them. And that is something I cannot force.
So what does that look like in the day-to-day raising of an almost three year old? Wooo. Tricky. And frustrating. And time-consuming. And hard. And rewarding.
And the icing on the cake–most of the research (both recent and dating all the way back to the 1950’s) shows me that the happy side-effect of this type of parenting is obedience. By not punishing, rewarding, or controlling, I get a child who both thinks for herself and is more likely to obey me. Score!