Kids and Obedience

I like to watch people, particularly parents with little kids. I am always interested in how the child responds to the parents’ directives or more commonly how often the child does not obey. Usually, the conversation goes like this. The child behaves in a manner that is not publicly acceptable. Parent tells child to stop. Child pauses for a moment, as if she/he was actually considering the directive, and then proceeds to ignore it.

I’m sure I am not the only one who has encountered such behavior. I am not sure which is more interesting, the child who has decided to follow the philosophy of existentialism (i.e. I have a choice and I am going to use it) or the parent who somehow follows the philosophy of Goebbels (the Nazi propangandist) who said that if you say something often enough it becomes true or in the case of the parent, obeyed.

My parents were weird. Weird, because they committed never to lie to me. When they said a punishment was in store for failure to obey, you could count on their following through as much as you can count on a liberal raising taxes and expanding government. They had this pernicious tendency to speak once, maybe twice, followed immediately by action if their words did not elicit the desired actions on my part.Certainly, many reading this post will confidently smile at the quaintness of my upbringing and how barbarically (sic) old fashioned it was. Thank God, they say to themselves, parenting has evolved past that.

Unfortunately, several problems arise when parents can’t get their kids to obey their verbal commands. First, children in such homes fail to develop a healthy respect for authority. Sometimes this lack of respect results in death as when the child doesn’t bother listening to the warning about running into the street. Othertimes, the problem expresses itself in behavioral problems as in acting out in class because if a child won’t obey a parent, why should he obey a teacher? Second, children who don’t respect authority ultimately cannot honor their parents. This should worry parents now that we must rely on our children to care for us when we get old and decrepit. The fact that parents know their kids won’t help them is a key factor in all the emotion over nationalizing health care. If we can’t get our kids to care for us, at least we can implore the government to tax the daylights out of them to pay for our care.

Finally, as Proverbs says, a person who lacks self-control is like an unwalled city. Failure to discipline a child results in a child who is insatiable. The child is never satisfied because it has never understood boundaries or the significance of the word, No. I suspect the insatiability of children is why so many parents who claim they love kids, are always looking for ways to pawn them off to someone else. Trying to satisfy someone who is constantly looking for a new experience, is rather tiring. No wonder parents want to get rid of them for at least a few hours.

Regrettably, the cause of this problem ultimately rests with the parents who simply lack the self-discipline to raise kids they can enjoy. As family dynamics teaches, failures with the parents, frequently get repeated with the children, thereby continuing the cycle. What will you do to stop it?


Stephen M. Vantassel is a tutor at Theology at Kings Evangelical Divinity School

Copyright 2009. Stephen M. Vantassel

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