Does Obedience Make a ‘Good’ Kid?
Reflecting on Parenting ‘good’ Kids
Our Bollywood weddings are more like extravagant productions than simple celebrations, but fun nonetheless. Having attended two weddings in the last months, I couldn’t help but reflect on a common thread in separate comments I heard at each celebration.
Bollywood Production 1
At this wedding, we were technically friends of the bride, but unusually we didn’t know many of the guests. That was actually refreshing, especially since my daughter, Nitasha, was in the wedding party. Rarely, at these large events does one get the opportunity to sit back quietly, observe, reflect, and meet new people.
Since seating had not been assigned, my husband and I ended up at a table with relatives of the groom. After some small talk, the conversation seamlessly shifted to “what a wonderful boy” the groom was. His paternal uncle caught my attention with:
“He is really a great catch! Any girl would be lucky to have him. Out of all the boys in our family, he is the most obedient.”
Hmmm…Does being obedient make one a great catch? I asked myself.
“You are perfectly right,” chimed in the boy’s aunt. “He is more obedient than all the cousins. When he turned 21, and his cousins wanted to take him to Las Vegas, my brother-in-law said ‘no.’ This boy didn’t argue with his father at all! My boys like to argue about everything. He’s a very, very good son.”
Bollywood Production 2
The father of the groom was giving his blessing-toast and said, “Son, you have grown into a fine young man. ‘Fine’ is something that would have defined you even when you were a young boy and a teenager. One of the best qualities you have is your unconditional love for and dedication to your parents. My son’s best quality is that he always listens to me. He has never argued or defied me—whether I am right or wrong. My wish has always been his command.”
Again I thought, Does always listening and agreeing make our children fine?
These two comments really got me to reflect on my own parenting skills with my young-adult children. I couldn’t help but ask myself, Why are obedience and compliance worth admiration? Is this a cultural expectation (or pressure) we subconsciously instill in our children? Perhaps these parents meant to say that their kids respected their opinions!
In any case, the words made me ponder.
I may be a rebel parent (and parenting advocate), but I truly believe that obedience and compliance hinder our children’s ability to think for themselves—to be independent. Don’t we want our kids to be independent, that is, dependent upon their inner selves? Obedience and compliance will never get them there.
So, parents, if you are looking to raise independent, self-reliant, and resilient kids, the following three things are absolute musts:
1. Make room—lots of it—for discussions and even arguments.
Giving children—of any age—the freedom to express their opinions and speak their minds builds their communication skills, and communication is the strongest bridge to an open and lasting relationship with our kids. Is that not what we all want as parents—a healthy, long-term relationship with our kids?
Know from the get-go that making room will require you to…
2. Be Patient
Discussions and arguments require patience. And the two crowning jewels of patience are time and listening. When discussions begin, give those discussions your time and undivided attention. And really listen. Let your children complete their sentences and their thoughts. This will help you respond intellectually instead of reacting emotionally. This type of open-minded communication also helps you understand each other and builds trust—a necessary ingredient for both parents and children.
And no matter which direction the discussion or argument goes…
3. Be Kind
This affirmation always works for me (and for every parent that I have suggested it to): When you are wrong, be kind, and when you are right, be kinder!
Keep in mind that parents are influencers. We are our children’s first and most influential teachers. Exercise your role responsibly. If the conversation deteriorates and emotions flare, kindness is a great way to reset the thermostat. Kindness expresses the unconditional love we all have for our kids; kindness exudes understanding; kindness displays respect.
Most of all, kindness showcases emotional intelligence—our ability to recognize and understand our own and our children’s emotions. Dr. Daniel Goleman, the pioneer of emotional intelligence has proved that Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the driving force of a child’s academic and life success.
We all know that compliance and obedience are counterproductive to our children’s growth and success. By keeping these three precepts in mind, we honor our children’s intelligence and their emotions. Most of all, we allow them to be heard. We nurture their voice by strengthening their confidence and giving them wings of in-dependence, of freedom.
More about the Author
Roma Khetarpal is Masalamommas parenting columnist. She is the founder and CEO of Tools of Growth, through which she helps parents raise kids to “Be Happy, Think Positive, and Do Good.” With parenting classes, community outreach, articles, reviews, and blog posts, Tools of Growth provides parents with simple, easy-to-remember, and effective communication tools that can help them build a strong foundation and relationship with their children.
By synthesizing the themes and concepts of the personal growth and emotional intelligence fields, along with cutting-edge parenting research, Khetarpal delivers her message in an accessible, reassuring, and personally empowering way.
She is also the author of the “The ‘Perfect’ Parent: 5 Tools for Using Your Inner Perfection to Connect With Your Kids,” which was recently awarded the Mom’s Choice Award. The MCA program is globally recognized for establishing the benchmark of excellence in family-friendly media, products and services
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