Sunday, June 12, 2011

Obedience - At What Cost?

I was reading our local news paper today and was shocked to read about a man driving around our area trying to lure kids into his car. It is so scary for the people that live here. You can hear people whispering about it everywhere you go in town.

I was in the grocery store the other day getting my cart. A little boy, maybe 18 months old, came running out into the cart area squealing with delight. The mother ran in after him and snatched him up. "I told you to stay with Mommy! You were bad! That bad man could have taken you! You are going to be strapped in the cart now the whole time we are here because you didn't listen!" The little boy cried so loud the entire time they were in the store. It was heartbreaking. You could hear the fear and anger in this mothers voice. It was a very negative experience, all for the sake of fear and obedience training.

Fear. It is the driving force and one of the main reasons parents are mean and control their kids today. This mother was so petrified about this guy driving around that she was mean to her son, instilling him with fear and negativity. He was angry and hurt by her. The entire time at the store he wanted to get away from her and get down and explore. When a stranger is kinder to a child than the parent, it can be very conflicting for a child. Children are responsive to love, kindness, trust and joy not fear, anger and negativity.

Children are not naturally designed to be obedient over their own inner desires and drives. Parents spend years trying to bend the will of their children to meet their needs before their own. The little boy that ran into the store before his Mom was so joyful and full of life. He was exploring and running and in such bliss at that moment. He didn't have the ability to put his mothers needs before his own. It just isn't possible and it is so narcissistic to expect such a young child to do so. Most adults can't even do it. To expect a toddler to put obedience before exploring and playing is not only cruel, it is unrealistic.

When a child isn't raised in the mainstream way of being trained to obey by every adult around him, he stays in a state of Wholeness than more traditionally raised kids. The child is confident and their inner knowing and intuition stays in tact. If an adult tells them to do something like, "get in my car", they wouldn't even consider it. It would be like asking a confident adult the same question. They do not have the fear of not obeying on their backs, driving them to do things that don't feel right. When trained for obedience by parents and teachers, the desires of adults always come before their own... or else! Safety of the child becomes an issue because they are so trained to listen to adults without question. They are forced to kiss Grandma when they don't want to, they are made to obey adults in every scenario - except one... and that one feels very unclear to most kids.

There is no "Stranger Danger" film, or sit-down talk powerful enough to override the years of obedience training that most kids receive for them to be able to have a clear knowing of what to do in the situation when an adult is asking them to do something. It is very conflicting for a child. When a child has physically and emotionally gone through the motions of obedience and meeting adults needs, just telling a child to "not listen to a stranger" is so hypocritical when everything else they hear in life says just the opposite.

I feel that my children are much safer than children who have been raised with obedience training, because they have always been able to have their needs met without putting our needs before theirs, hence valuing their needs as much as others needs. They would never consider listening to an adult tell them to do something they weren't comfortable with because they have never been forced to do so. Ever.

We talk with our children about listening to their inner guidance. We also told them about the man driving around our neighborhood and we came from a calm place of information. Not a place of fear and exaggeration. I want them to listen to themselves first and foremost, before anyone else, including me.

I was almost abducted as a little girl. A man drove up to me as asked me to get in his car. He was exposing himself and even with that red flag, my hand was on the door handle! I knew not to get in, but I was so scared of what would happen if I didn't obey the man. I was so scared and confused. I wanted to be a "good girl". I was always praised because I listened so well and because I "respecting adults". (which really means obeying). I know he was telling me to do something, and I was trained to do what I was told - by every adult around me. Luckily some other kids came by and he drove off. Who knows if I would be here today if that hadn't happened. I know first hand the conflicting message our culture sends to children.

Living this life has made me rethink so much. Obedience and fear go hand in hand. When you can let go of fear, you aren't so driven to force a child to obey as a parent who is living in a more trusting place. You may begin to see life through your child's eyes and begin putting their needs in a place equal to your own. Children want to hear information from us about safety. It is important though that what we say and how we live go hand in hand. When we are sending mixed messages, information because confusing to children. Parenting in partnership has many long term benefits and I believe that safety is just one.


Anonymous said...

In all honesty the word "obedience" gives me the creeps. I don't consider my kids to be "obedient". They are respectful, cautious, observant and naturally open minded. Why? Because my dh and I are. It's really pretty simple. I remember when I was a teenager working in a restaurant a woman was scolding her kid. She pointed at me and said "be quiet, the lady is going to yell at you". I replied impulsively "No I'm not!" I remember thinking that this was so bizarre and it stuck in my head when I became a Mom myself.
That said; I grew up in a rough neighborhood. I did experience someone trying to lure me into a car when I was about eight or nine. I was smart though and got out of the situation. I was also smart enough not to find myself in a potentially dangerous situation (didn't lurk around dark alleys, try to stick to travel routes I was familiar with). But it wasn't because my parents scared me. They just simply explained to me that it's a good idea to be observant of my surroundings. It is what it is, but no, we certainly can't go around paranoid. How would that help?
Anyway... there ya go. ;)
Well done Dayna.

Erica Perry said...

Thanks for posting about this powerful topic Dayna. I can see that when children are predominantly in the presence of authentic adults whose intent is love and acceptance and to live in partnership with the children, the children can feel strongly when any words or act of love or kindness is not authentic, or when any adult/person has an intention to coerce them into doing something they are not comfortable with. True happiness and safety come from the ability to hear this inner voice, so thanks for the reminder to nurture my children's inner selves :-)And my own! xx

karisma said...

You make some great points Dayna but I don't agree entirely that obedience and fear go hand in hand. Sometimes we need to obey to get by in society. Eg obeying the laws which are put in place for the good of all. (not that we always agree with them either LOL)

I have raised my own children gently and with respect but we still had some rules and sometimes I made decisions as a parent that I expected them to obey if it meant keeping them safe. Sometimes I had to say no. At the same time I am happy to say that my children are free thinking individuals. We discuss everything. We do not always agree with each other. If I ever have to enforce anything, it is followed by talking and listening to each others point of view. I am sure this subject could incite a huge reaction in many and I am not trying to undermine what you are saying as the message is very true. I guess I am trying to get the point across that some take things literally to the extreme and sometimes forget to think themselves when faced with such an issue. In your example, the mothers reaction was very wrong, I cringed at the thought of how that poor child was feeling, at the same time though, I don't think a shopping centre is the place for running around and getting under everyone elses feet either. There are many peoples feelings to consider in such a situation not just our own or our childs. Thanks for the insightful thought provoking post lovely! Always enjoy popping by! Hugs xoxox

Cully_J said...

Hello from the U.S. (Wisconsin),

I'm very happy to have discovered The Sparkling Martins.

My wife and I are very lucky to have avoided similar scare tactics used on our 11 year old unschooled daughter.

After reading this entry, it sounds like it's something that's inevitable.

Luckily, my daughter has enough real life experience to know what's real and what's make-believe.

Jo said...

Great post Dayna. The whole culture of fear surrounding 'stranger danger' drives me crackers! Our son is only 5, but he has heard 'stranger danger' on movies and TV, and asked about strangers. I have, so far, explained that 'strangers' are merely people we don't know and have not met yet, and that if he was in trouble or needed help, he should ask anyone nearby - nearly all 'strangers' are kind people who will help him. However, I also explained that if someone he didn't know tried to get him to go with them, tried to hurt him in anyway, or get him to go in a car, he should react loudly and do whatever he could to get away.

He has already shown, like your children, that he will not 'obey' someone just because they are an adult, and he has no problem standing up for himself and speaking up to adults he doesn't know....i believe, like you, that this will help him recognise any potentially dangerous situations that he might face and react accordingly.

Ooo Zot! said...

Agreed. Kids are raised to obey adults and then people turn around and say "don't listen to strangers!" I worked in a class once and they were trying to teach the kids to even ignore strangers! Oddly enough statistics point out that people the child knows are more likely to harm them than a random stranger. There was an awesome episode of "Bullshit!" on stranger danger... too bad they didn't go into the obedience issue.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post, Dayna. I agree with the first comment. I find the word "obedient" when it comes to children to be rather repugnant. I have said out loud to people that obedience is not one of the things I want my kids to learn, because I don't think there is any point to spending so much effort creating a value in a child that would be quite unattractive in an adult. I mean really, what adult wants to have "obedient" at the top of the list of "great things about you"?