it's calm and cooperation."
~Barbara Coloroso in "Kids are Worth It"
Every time I see a parenting book talk about 'compliance' I remember something I read in some other parenting book (I honestly don't remember which one):
Think about the person that you hope your child will be when he grows up. Do you want him to be a 'yes man' who only knows how to follow orders and who never questions authority? Or do you want him to be a thinking person who knows how to look at the situation and see the options, find solutions, make compromises, and (when appropriate) question authority?
I am hoping for the latter. For this reason, I do not believe that it is appropriate to force my children to bend to my will.
Scripture teaches that "He that is commanded in all things is a slothful and not a wise servant." This is not the future I hope for for my children!
All of this is not to suggest that I never tell my children what to do. I am here in a position of authority, and it is my job to teach them and raise them. There are some things they don't know yet, and some things which they know but don't practice very well yet. I absolutely believe that obedience is vital, and if I tell my child to do something I absolutely expect them to obey me. BUT, before telling my child to do something, I try consider just why I am telling him this. Is it an issue which threatens a body, mind, or soul? If not, then how much does it really matter? For example, I may find it terribly annoying that Wolf prefers to sleep with his feet by the headboard and his head at the other end of his bed. I may also find it very strange that as often as not he'd rather sleep on the floor. But is this really a problem? Or does it just annoy me? and if it's only an annoyance, only a preference, then are my preferences more important than his preferences? (if you answered 'yes' to that last question, I urge you to really reconsider how you view your children, and whether you genuinely respect them.) If it is not something with threatens body, mind, soul (or property), then I try to stay out of the way.
OK you say, but sleeping upside down or on the floor isn't a big deal. Yes, you're right, it's not. But I have seen parents get terribly upset over things that small. Let me try to think of some more examples:
- Hitting a sibling or playmate--bodily harm (I will intervene)
- Refusing to eat a particular food--only an annoyance. (I don't like mushrooms, and I am willing to accept that Wolf doesn't like tomatoes. So long as he has tried them, he has a right to have that opinion.)
- Throwing things--it depends where he is...rocks in the lake? go for it. rocks at a sibling? Absolutely not. rocks in the back yard? well, it depends a great deal on the size and layout of the backyard!
- Climbing trees that look too big to me--oo, danger to body! Make him get down, right?! (well, is he really in danger? Possibly...but I have concluded that I will never help my kid into a tree...if they can get up themselves, then I figure that wherever they climb is within their range of skill)
- Eating candy before dinner--potentially this could harm his body, so we certainly don't allow it regularly...on the other hand, I'm of the opinion that a child who doesn't get apple pie or chocolate cake for breakfast from time to time may be in danger of mental or spiritual harm, so sometimes the balance is more important than having a rule with no exceptions.
That's going to be another post.