The topic of obedience seems to come up a lot here. I am not sure if this is because of the large Christian population here, the fact that we live in the south, or if the problems with today's society have people obsessed with a stricter upbringing. Regardless of the cause, I seem to be the odd person around here so I either get looks or questions. I guess it's about time I explained myself.
I struggled with how to even start this post. Obedience seems to tie in so closely to discipline. Then so many people consider discipline to go hand in hand with punishment. I wondered how I could write 1 post about obedience without getting too far into discipline or punishment. If I got too much into those it might go from being a blog post to being a book.
Obedience is basically the act of complying, usually with an order. To try to make a distinction some people refer to an immediate compliance, without question, to any order as "blind obedience". If obedience is complying with an order, I find there to be some question as to whether there really is any difference.
Obedience is held to be so important in children because it is thought to convey respect. The highest form of respect is honor. The commandments say to honor your father and mother. Respect is a feeling though, when a person feels esteem toward someone, they respect them. Obedience can be forced because it is an act, respect cannot be forced because it is a feeling. When, what we refer to as, "respect" is shown through actions it is really a form of manners, not actual respect. Respect is only conveyed during an action when it is felt, it is not conveyed as an action itself.
If children are taught obedience they are taught to comply to an order. An order can only be given when there is someone there to give it. You also have to consider who is giving the order. Not all orders should be followed. You have to consider who is giving the order. When there is an order that should not be followed, or no order at all, a child will have to make their own decisions.
Decision making skills cannot be fully taught. The thing that can be taught is the decision making process. In order to properly utilize that process a child needs to also know right from wrong. Right from wrong is learned through modeling. It cannot necessarily be taught. The laws of a country can be taught. Beyond that, one families wrongs may differ from another. When a child makes a mistake, for the first time, they need to be told what that mistake was in order to learn. In this way they learn through their mistakes. Through the modeling of the people around them, they also learn this. Once they know their right from wrong, they can use it to make decisions. People need to be able to use the decision making process in order to make the right decisions.
Too much emphasis on obedience does not allow a child to practice the decision making process. Without practice, this process is learned much more slowly. Sometimes obedience is a necessary thing to emphasize, such as when safety is concerned. The rest of the time, gently guiding a child through the decision making process may take longer but will aid in the development of self discipline as well as nurture their confidence in themselves.
If a child does not learn these skills young they will have to learn them later, with less guiding from us available. When the people giving the orders are no longer the parents they may continue to be a "follower", in other words they may fall into the peer pressure trap. When there is no longer someone there to make the decisions, and then order their compliance, they have to make the decisions themselves. A child may still have learned some right from wrong, through modeling. If correction is offered while the obedience is demanded they could have also learned some right from wrong. Now they need to be able to chose between the two. When they have not had an opportunity to practice the decision making process they are being thrown into the water with a buoy and we are just hoping they can quickly figure out how to use it. I am very sure some will figure it out quickly, but I am just as sure that some won't, as they flounder in the waters of life.
That is why you see me explaining things to my toddler, not demanding her immediate, blind obedience. I am respecting her and I hope, in the process, I am earning her respect.