Tuesday, October 11, 2005

What's your take on "obediance"?

I received an email ad for a Christian parenting video. In the outline of key points was this: "Obedience - the cornerstone of good parenting."

I know what my generation of parents in the church thought about this. I'm curious to know how a new and upcoming generation of parents feels about this (and how grown children feel about this.)

How do you feel about a mother's role and a father's role? Do they have distinct and different roles?

Just curious. . . I think asking questions keeps us from making assumptions that may or may not be true.


  1. As a rather new parent with a child who is still pretty young, I have some humble (I hope) thoughts. My disclaimer at the outset of this comment is that I realize everything seems easy before you have to put it in place. So I know I'm going to fail at a lot of this and end up looking like the poster boy for bad parenting.

    The approach I am hoping to try to take (how's that for confidence?) is a blend of leniency as a general practice and consistent follow-through when I do set boundaries. Basically, this flows out of being annoyed by two polarities that I have observed in grocery stores and elsewhere.

    The first is seemingly arbitrary boundaries: parents who seem to say "no" for the sake of saying it. I have often found myself saying, "Why on earth won't they let her do that? Just let her be a kid, for crying out loud."

    The second is empty words: parents who tell a child to do something and then make absolutely zero effort to follow through when the child disobeys. It would have been far better, it seems, never to have said anything in the first place.

    I already find myself missing on both counts, simply because it is often hard to walk that middle line. But there's my theory anyway.

    As far as mother/father roles, I think there will be more overlap than specialization in our family. I already joke a little bit about how Abel doesn't hug me as much as he does his Mama, but the reality is that there must be some gender role disparity that is surprising me somehow. I guess we'll have to figure out how, if at all, this will affect our parenting roles.

    Tracey just read this and said it is consistent with what we've talked about in the past. Just so you know I'm not making it up out of whole cloth.

  2. I think the key to good parenting is setting boundaries, and then only holding on to the child loosely as long as they stay within those boundaries.

    On the obedience issue, Jason and I have always preferred to figure out what our absolute non-negotiables are and then be consistent about enforcing them.
    And our kids know what they are. Always wear your seat belt. Always hold hands when crossing the street or in a parking lot. Never go outside of the house alone. Doing schoolwork is not optional. Always brush teeth before bed. We get very little argument from our kids when we enforce these things, because they know it is non-negotiable.

    Aside from those few basic health and safety rules, everything else IS negotiable. We would prefer that our kids obey us the first time every time, but it's not a realistic expectation and we realize that. They are people with their own personalities and issues. Jason and I have long been of the opinion that we don't need to do something just because someone else thinks we should. So why should we enforce those expectations on our kids?

    It is far more important to us that our kids view us as guides and helpers rather than absolute authority figures. We both grew up in households with "absolute authority" figures, and neither of us are better for it.

    When our kids disobey, rather than handing out swift punishment, we are more likely to make them sit down and talk about why they are disobeying. Often it is simply because of rudeness or obstinance, and that kind of attitude is punished appropriately. But sometimes other issues are at work. They are tired, or not feeling well, or have had a bad day. It's important to treat them as people, not as underlings.

    Respect goes both ways.

  3. It's interesting how family of origin really does make a difference in these things. Lisa noted that she and Jason "both grew up in households with 'absolute authority' figures, and neither of us are better for it."

    I was thinking about that, and I realized that I grew up in a house where I worked the angles pretty easily. I knew, for example, that if I got sent to my room, I could get out of it with about 30 seconds of whining. I'm certainly not better for that. So I guess we're both trying to improve on our parents' example in different ways.

  4. I was also thinking about what our absolute non-negotiables are/will be, and I think it's definitely worthwhile for us to spend some time together talking about those things. Maybe I'll post back here when we do.