Sep 4, 2013

On the importance of learning Obdience (another controversial topic)

I grew up in a rather strict and unworldly environment. We lived out in the middle of nowhere, me and my sisters and brothers, and we loved it. We had five acres to play and imagine on, and we weren't allowed to watch any television except on Friday nights, and our supply of movies was, for a while limited.

Our parents also expected complete obedience from us. As oldest, I got to be the kid to break the path, so to speak. I was a good kid who wanted to be obedient. But as all kids, or people who have been kids, know, it isn't always easy. Sometimes you waaaant stuff. Or even need stuff, and a parent doesn't quite get it--that need, the deep and cutting level of the want.

My husband's family was more lenient I think. Though he grew up in a similarly isolated situation (made even more so by the fact he was homeschooled) his parents weren't quite as authoritarian. Though I think his mother and father do expect obedience as well.

For me, it's a gut-thing. I feel strongly like all of my kids need to learn this. That when mom or dad asks, your answer is "yes." You can ask a question or two, but when you get those things cleared up, if discussion hasn't lead to a different answer, you stop arguing and go do it. And if you've been given a rule to follow, you follow it.

I had a difficult moment with one of my children yesterday. She is the one who has the most difficult time obeying. I think a lot of it is her personality--she is very conscientious and likes to make sure things happen in the right way. She's a good leader. She'll be a good mom someday. (But she's not the mom yet.) I also think adoption issues play into it--the need to control, to get her own needs met, and to have been deprived so severely of not just wants but needs makes "want" a burning, driving thing inside her at times. She has a very difficult time being told "no." She'll ask and ask, ask different ways, beg and plead, counter every argument I can come up with and eventually, throw tantrums or get angry.

We've talked a lot about how her "wants" are big. And how that's usually what gets her into trouble--when she does something because she's letting what she wants take over her being, and make choices for her. We've struggled with her hoarding stuff of other kids, for instance, of her (often quite successfully) convincing others to give up prized possessions. I've heard her be pretty mean when want is driving her.

And it's not her. It's her wants, speaking through her. We've talked about it a lot.

Yesterday when they were walking home from school, a friend offered a ride on her bike. This daughter has really missed her bike, because the tire cracked at the beginning of summer and we haven't gotten around to repairing or replacing it yet. She loves riding bikes. She has even been riding her 5-year-old brother's bike, hunched over the tiny handlebars, slow, tottering training wheels and all. Bike-riding for her=giant, burning want.

So instead of following the rule that she needs to stay with her sister to walk home for safety reasons, she agreed to ride on her friend's bike.

Her sister told me what happened when they got home, and her response wasn't sorrow at what she had done, it was anger that her sister "told." And the thing that worried me most was her just utter lack of concept of her own misdoing. With her, sometimes it's like she has her own sense of what she should and should not do, and my guidance and authority doesn't even factor in, if she feels her own need (or want) trumps it. (I know this is also an adoption issue. An insecurity issue.)

Long discussions and room-confinement and new strict procedures ensued. We talked about how I need to be able to trust that she'll obey our family's rules outside our home. That if I can't trust that, I can't put her in situations where she's left alone. I'll have to bring her to school, pick her up from school, drop her off at church activities... that in fact, if I can never trust her to obey rules, she'll end up leading a pretty boring life until she leaves my house.

It made me think back on my own childhood/teenagerhood. I remember being given fairly strict rules. The only one I can remember ever purposefully violating was one my mother gave us about leaving campus to have lunch. Seniors at my high school were allowed that privilege. All my friends did it on a regular basis. So my choice was to eat lunch alone, or go with them and get lunch. I made the choice to disobey and go get lunch. For me (a painfully shy and self-conscious teenager, to whom the idea of being seen eating lunch alone seemed completely embarrassing) my need to be with friends at lunch was desperate enough to outweigh my desire to obey that particular rule. Was it OK? Nope. Not OK. But I understand what my kids are going through.

What I'm trying to do right now is figure out how to teach obedience and give rules that are actually follow-able. Walking home with your sister after school should be pretty easy. Right? Well... but my daughter's want for bike riding made it much harder for her to make that decision correctly. Perhaps if I'd replaced her bike tire, spent some attention on that want of hers, she wouldn't have been as tempted to disobey my rule.

Parenting. It's a learning process from both sides.

And it's so complicated sometimes.

And sometimes it makes me feel frightened. I think down the line and wonder about other rules: going out with boys, avoiding parties with alcohol, etc. And I feel again this need to teach my kids now, while they're influence-able, why it's important to obey rules and trust parents. At the same time, I also need to remove myself eventually from feeling responsible for their choices. But that's the point; now's the time to teach. If I don't teach now, I *will* be partly responsible for poor choices later.

And that, folks, is my rambling, still-being-formed, heartachey set of feelings on this topic.


Emma Tank said...

Yeah, I worry about that sometimes too. One thing that they emphasized a lot in class was giving choices. Both were choices you'd be okay with, but allowing them to choose which one they wanted. It tends to empower kids, and help them to feel less rebellious. I don't know if that would help, or if it's even on topic, but that's what I thought of when I read your post. Good luck! You're a great mom.

Sarah Dunster said...

that's the love and logic approach :) It works pretty well, I think. Some rules don't have choices though. LIke... walk home with your sister, or... walk home with your sister. Don't do drugs, or don't do drugs. But offering children choices and occasionally, explanations (not in the moment) I think is also important. A good point.

Anonymous said...

Fix the poor girls bike!