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I have read recently where some parents believe that obedience in your child is incompatible with having a relationship with said child. When I say “having a relationship with your kid,” I don’t mean abdicating your responsibility as a parent and trying to be your kid’s friend. I don’t believe that should happen until your child is an adult. Being your kid’s friend is the byproduct of nuturing a relationship and giving your child what s/he needs and wants: parents who will set the standards and maintain order in their lives as well as lovingly guide them through rough patches.

Definitions aside, it would seem as though some parents who want complete obedience (called First Time Obedience or FTO) from their kids are willing to neglect the need to build a loving, trusting relationship with those same children in order to foster a trust-respect-love relationship as the kids enter the turbulent pre-teen and teen years. I don’t really see it that way at all.

As parents, we strive for first-time obedience in our son. If he’s not obedient the first time (because we don’t require it), how will he know when to obey in a dangerous situation? In other words, if he doesn’t listen about little things and build up the respect for us as parents and our authority now, will he stop if his ball runs in the street and there’s a car coming? Will he heed my voice when I say “STOP!” or will he continue on into the street, potentially endangering his life? My goal is for the former, not the latter. So I really do believe that FTO is important.

But in the same breath I’m going to tell you that I don’t want my kid obeying me out of abject terror or fear. As in “what will Mom do to me if I don’t obey?” Yes, there will be some of that as he grows–he will have to choose between obedience and the consequence of not obeying (right now, it’s the loss of a clothespin). More than anything, though, I want him to choose obedience out of love and respect, knowing that Mom & Dad are always looking out for his best interest and safety. And *that*, to my mind, requires nuturing a relationship that teaches those things.

Some parents say that this sort of relationship is one that comes later, when a child is 7, 8, 9, or 10. But to my mind, I don’t think you can just make a switch (like flipping on a light) from a lack of relationship to automatically having that sort of relationship as the child ages and it’s no longer about making them do something out of fear of you or the consequences. I think it (the relationship) has to be built over time.

Maybe I’m all wet about this. Maybe it’s still the ignorance of a first-time parent that’s got me in this place. I sincerely hope not. But right now, we’re working on both FTO and building a relationship that will sustain us through the years ahead. The years that will contain how to relate to the opposite sex, what college to choose, and who to marry. I want my kids to look to me and allow me to share experience and influence when they’re in those stages of life–and I believe it can only be done through leveraging my parental influence and building the relationship of trust now. I guess time will tell how it all works out. But I’m banking on being right about this and we’re working towards that end as parents. :).

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Category: life musings
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