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Teaching Obedience through Consistency…or Not


Disobedient children can be enough to make a momma crazy.  Trust me, I know.  In my quest for cooperation and obedience from my kids, I’ve heard one piece of advice over and over…

“Be consistent.  Make rules and enforce them, if you want your children to obey.”



But what if obedience isn’t actually my goal?

What if there’s more than that?

What if my efforts to teach my children to obey actually teach them something else?


When I think about my real purpose as a parent, my long-term goals and values, obedience is never one of my goals.  Of course I want my boys to be respectful and obey laws, but I also want them to be independent thinkers who can solve problems and make decisions on their own.  I want them to be kind.  And patient.  I want them to be flexible and open to others’ ideas.

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Demanding, without reprieve, that my children do what I say, just because I said it, doesn’t serve that purpose. Rigidity, often termed “consistency,” doesn’t serve that purpose.  It doesn’t teach my boys what I truly want to teach them.  Instead, I’m modeling the exact rigid, inflexible, “my-way-or-the-highway” attitude that I don’t want them to have.


I’ve been trying to catch myself and change my response to my childrens’ requests.  Tonight, Adam asked for a snack after supper and I said no.  When he asked again, I said no again. But when he explained that he had a really yucky taste in his mouth and wanted a granola bar to get that taste out, I changed my mind and changed my response.  I gave him a granola bar. 

What did that teach my child?  Did it teach him that Mom’s a softy who will give in after enough whining?  Maybe.  Did it teach him that whining will get him what he wants?  Maybe. 

But it also taught him that logical, rational arguments, presented in a respectful tone can change peoples’ minds.  It taught him that perseverance pays off.  And it taught him that it’s okay to change your mind. 

Good lessons, I think.  Better than simple obedience.

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