I was honored to be a guest on Dennis Prager’s syndicated radio program recently. Much of the conversation centered on the need for children to obey.
Children should obey, I maintain, because — and research confirms common sense on this point — obedient children are happy children. The reader does not know a disobedient child who is truly happy. A child’s happiness reflects an optimistic view of life, an optimistic view of his or her ability to endure and even (perhaps) overcome obstacles, and for those reasons, an overall sense of well-being. In other words, while certain benefit accrues to parents as the result of having an obedient child, the most significant benefit is to the child.
Today’s parents are their children’s worst enemies when it comes to obedience. They are uncomfortable with the idea that just as it is their job to provide unconditional love, it is also their job to provide unequivocal authority. That is why they yell. They want their children to do what they tell them to do, but they assume a pleading posture when conveying decisions and instructions to their kids. So their kids don’t obey. So they end up yelling.
Making matters worse, most parents tell me they want their kids to cooperate. No, you don’t, I tell them. Cooperation is possible between mutually respecting peers. You are not your child’s peer. You are the superior in the relationship, and you need to embrace that fact for your child’s sake.
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Authority is conveyed naturally by parents who accept that responsibility. That mindset enables relaxed but straightforward and unequivocal communication. The parents say what they mean and mean what they say. No means no. Their children obey because obedience is a child’s natural response to the proper conveyance of authority. Thus, these parents do not have to rely on consequences much, if at all.
Toward the end of the show, a caller named Marvin — he identified himself as an educator — said he disagreed with everything I was saying. Adults should collaborate with children, not coerce them, he said. I never used the word coercion, but Marvin heard what his ideological filters allowed him to hear.
“Instead of saying ‘no’ to a child,” Marvin said, “you should say ‘not yet.’”
Why? Because that is more pleasing to the child’s ears. And adults must be pleasing to children. I’m being sarcastic. To be fair, collaborative discipline is the method du jour in American education. It goes hand-in-hand with parents wanting children to cooperate. Collaboration and cooperation presume that children are rational, which they are not. Instead, they are self-centered. Without realizing it, Marvin gave Dennis’ audience a glimpse into why the adult-child relationship is so often upside-down in today’s schools, colleges and homes.
Marvin is an example of why America desperately needs a retro-revolution in parenting.
Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents’ questions on his website, Rosemond.com.
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