I was at a playground with my son one day and I witnessed something rather hilarious. A burly man, whose arms were laced with tattoos of threatening dragons of various sizes, approached his 3-year old son who was at the playground. He was trying to get his son to return home but his son would not leave. Pretty helpless, the man then persuaded the son in a gentle and pleading tone and I could not help but laughed quietly. You would have imagined a huge man like him to speak with a lot more authority and firmness but he was more like the Gruffalo before the mouse.
On another occasion, I was in a lift with a mother. She asked if her two sons would like to eat at a food court. The immediate response the boys gave was no. Before I walked away, the mother was desperately persuading the sons to eat at the food court.
Another example was a mother who asked if the child would like to go to school. I think readers would know the response of the child by now. The child was allowed to follow her whims. She did not go to class in the end.
It should be pretty clear to my readers by now that obedient parents do not produce obedient children. More often, they produce children who are demanding and insolent.
At this point, I would like to offer four insights that I derive from my experiences as a parent and from reading John Piper’s article on Parents Require Obedience Of Your Children:
1. It is reasonable to require obedience from children
As a parent, I have learnt that it is possible to train children even younger than a year old that there are things they ought not to touch, cupboards that they cannot open, and that they ought not to yell for things they need. We are their parents and being older and wiser, we can assert our authority and require obedience from our children.
2. Requiring obedience is a practice that should begin at home
I remember being totally helpless and embarrassed when my eldest son threw on the floor and yelled while at a train station years ago. No amount of cajoling and bribing helped at that time. I reckoned after that experience that I had better start requiring obedience from him at home if I wanted him to show obedience in the public. Requiring obedience at home is getting him to pack his toys after playtime, leave his favourite television programmes to get ready for bedtime, unpack his own bag when he reaches home and the list goes on.
3. It takes effort to require obedience, and it is worth it.
I am a tired parent and a lazy one most of the time. Requiring obedience simply takes too much of me physically, emotionally and mentally. Sometimes, when I ask my boys to stop their playtime to complete a task and if they refuse to obey, I prefer to leave it than to get up and deal with their disobedience. Why wrestle with them over something so trivial, I would reason with myself.
The result? My boys were often slow in their obedience and as I mentioned earlier, my elder boy became quite a bawler in the public. My inconsistent parenting – sometimes requiring obedience (when I do not have a tiring day at work or at home) while sometimes letting the children have their way was crippling me as a parent. The thought that I was a powerless parent, incapable of controlling my children was not a pleasant one.
Hence, when my second boy started exhibiting uncontrollable trantrums in the public too, I knew I had to put a stop to my inconsistent and lassie faire parenting.
4. Establish a trusting and loving relationship with your children as you require obedience from them.
I find that when my children feel loved and secure, they are able to obey better. They can trust that daddy and mummy know what is best for them. Children disobey because they think you are withholding something good from them. No chocolates means mummy doesn’t like me. No television means daddy doesn’t want me to enjoy the show. My aim is to raise kids who think: mummy is not giving me the chocolates because she knows they are bad for my cough or daddy says no to more cartoons because I need to rest. Though my children are still slow to obey sometimes, those moments when they were happy to obey, give me all the reasons to persevere in requiring obedience.