Obedience

When I was in grade one, my favourite subject, English had the story of Casabianca as the opening chapter of my English Reader.Back then, I was pretty amazed by the fact that a ten-year-old child chose to keep standing on the burning deck of a war ship because his father had asked him to not move till he told him so.

This story has stayed with me as the ultimate example of a child’s obedience to their parent’s instruction. As a six-year-old I might not have given much thought to this story had it not been repeatedly quoted by my parents every time I tried to do things my way or rather in their words, disobeyed them.

An emotional battle ensued in my mind when I looked up to my parents to follow their footsteps. I could clearly see my parents never practice what they preached but when I tried to follow suit I was reprimanded with an angry outburst. The fear instilled in my little heart in those early years made me an obedient child to not only my parents but also to every authoritarian figure  who tried to control me using anger or threats of serious punishment.

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum….” ~ Noam Chomsky

In hindsight, I can see how my fear made me a quiet, utterly obedient, introvert, who lacked self-esteem and always waited for instructions before doing anything. As disturbing it sounds, it felt utterly disgusting to be the one who was caged by her own fears. Be it my tyrant boss at work or the ill-tempered ex-husband, all benefited by controlling me with their anger just like my parents did when I was a child.

The irony of this situation came to fore when each of these people expected me to act a self-reliant, confident individual the minute I stepped out of the premises of their control. My parents have at many times expressed their utter disbelief that a well-educated woman like me could withstand an abusive marriage without raising an alarm.

It is times like these that make me want to yell and tell them that their misguided notion (or rather driven by their motive to control a young life) of obedience ruined my life’s prime quarter.

The day I was reborn, on the day of my child’s birth, something in me cracked. It was my old weak self. A face-to-face encounter with death showed me the face of life I wished for my precious child, but to make it happen, I had to wage a war.

Obedience Quote

I had to fix a lot of issues in my own personality, had to break free from a number of shackles. And I did succeed on a number of fronts. But, when my child grew up, I was faced with the baffling situation, how to inculcate discipline in her life, without acting like a tyrant. Besides, I cannot completely deny that I do want her to obey my instructions on many occasions.

This dilemma has been plaguing my mind on and off. While I try my best to let Pari have free choices in all that we do, I allow her plenty of room to talk freely, brief her  about what to expect in situations when we are outside home, but still there are times when I crave for obedience from my 4-year-old. It is not triggered by my parents constant mentioning that I am giving too much freedom to my child given her tender age and the difficult times we live in. But, being a parent I am aware there are times when I don’t have all the time in the world to explain every situation to her or let her have things her way when she picks up a Belgian glass vase at a friend’s place.

This is why I have worked out a rough draft of the strategy I usually employ to have Pari do things ‘as said’. These could be something as simple as to study for sometime on school holidays, or to turn off the TV at meal-times or to not throw a tantrum for something she clearly can’t have then and there.

  • Be gentle and control your emotions:  Letting my frustration shine bright in my words is a clear recipe of my instruction falling over deaf ears. Kids have a way of sensing the desperation and are somehow designed to play their mind rather than obliging immediately. Trying anger to control is a very bad move. One, cause it instills fear in the child that is mostly counter-productive in the long run. Secondly, a child like Pari who has her mind of her own would only throw a tantrum but will not co-operate. Being gentle, clear about what you’re expecting yet firm is the key. Obedience- The Era I Lived In-1
  • Be consistent: Being consistent in our instructions is crucial. What is not acceptable today, should also be unacceptable the coming week and also in the presence or absence of family or guests. Bending this rule needs intervention with an explicit explanation in a neutral time. Like I don’t allow Pari to drink packaged fruit juices on a daily basis with her snacks, but when it is a party or we visit friends and they offer fruit juice to her, I expect her to accept without waiting for me to nudge and give her a lengthy explanation then. So a bit of open talk on what is not allowed and why, helps because kids love pushing boundaries.
  • Practice what you preach: This is one rule about which I have been very conscious in my growing up years. The day Pari was born, I knew what all things I wanted different from my own life and to implement this plan I have been working hard in changing my habits tirelessly. Be it reading books or regular exercise, staying away from junk myself or having a disciplined routine everyday of the year. I try hard to lead by example.
  • Stick to your word: I follow through what I say. When I tell Pari that if she won’t put back her toys in the toy box she won’t be getting to see cartoon that evening. I stick to my word. Pari tries hard to play her cute self to make my heart melt, tries to push boundaries by getting things done her way by influencing her grandparents and the list is pretty long, but I stand a firm ground, because if I don’t, I’ll never be able to discipline her.
  • Encourage openly: Every time Pari does as I request her to, I make it a point to mention her good behavior. Everybody loves to be told that they made the right choice and that’s exactly what I tell Pari to reinforce her thinking that how she should learn to choose one thing over the other. I can always see a shine of pride in her eyes that lasts long after I praised the choice she made.
  • Rewards: There are occasions when a little reward for good behavior like an ice-cream, a sticker or a new eraser as a token of appreciation of exceptionally good behavior doesn’t hurt and serves to encourage the child.
  • Win over the child with attention: This came to me as a rather surprise. After I started giving Pari defined spells of positive, undivided attention, she has grown utterly responsive to my requests. She fusses less, tries to see where I’m coming from and has become overly forgiving.This has been a humbling change in my life. I feel tremendously less stressed and am loving basking in the loving obedience of my child.
  • Nothing is absolute: A child’s obedience can never be absolute, there are bound to be times when the child clearly refuses to listen to what is being said, despite repetition. This is when we need to stop for a second, walk up to the child, seek his full attention and find out what is keeping him from listening to you. I have understood that our kids don’t share our priorities. Like for Pari playing dress-up is far more important that keeping the room tidy. But when I need to get her to act otherwise, I need to have a small talk with her when her full attention is on me, telling her why I want her to clean up the room. The feeling of personal attention and giving due importance to what she holds prime helps her loosen up and listen to me. If I yell the instructions from across the hall, I can be assured that they will never be followed despite the whole neighborhood having heard it.
  • Being Human: We got to bear in mind that we are all humans who resist being pushed around to do things. Our children too. Teaching a child to be obedient, never questioning what they’re being asked to do can raise only submissive adults with no power to stand up for themselves. On the contrary creating an open environment that teaches self-discipline helps raise individuals with an open mind, who listen, analyse and freely make constructive choices.

Obedience is best not sought from our children. Instead encouraging them to grow into self-disciplined individuals will help them stand their ground, make astute choices in life to grow up into happy, confident individuals who will always stop to listen what we have to say even they don’t do it as it is.

Had Casabianca followed his heart instead of being obedient, he would have survived that fateful day.

Have you been an obedient child?

Do your children obey your instructions?

* This post is part of the April A to Z Challenge 2016. My theme is Parenting.

Please find my other posts here.

 

40 thoughts on “Obedience

  1. When I read Casablanca in school, I totally loved the story. It was inspiring at that age. Growing up, I was an obedient child but I also knew what I wanted so I started making choices early in life. Luckily, my parents were flexible and they trusted our judgement. Free choice is important and growing up, I got that. Lovely post and great food for thought.

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    1. I am hoping that it was just a typo in your comment and you did not mix Casabianca with the plot of Casablanca.
      I am so glad you made your own free choices and were supported by your parents in the same. I guess it also boils down to the personalities of the parents and the child besides the set of beliefs or parenting rules that they follow.
      Thank you Parul 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Amazing post. And seriously most of the times, i too felt like i am not able to make independent decisions because my parents had been over protective.
    I agree there’s a fine line between making them (children) to listen your words and letting them to make independent decisions. Being Role model is again difficult but trust me it’s always worth to lead by your words.

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    1. It is a difficult choice to let your children make mistakes and learn from them or to save the hurt and let them have it all sorted.
      However the crippling effect of the latter can leave the child unprepared to face the world for the rest of their lives. Being a parent, I can now see where the roots of many of my traits lie, this has made me try my best to avoid making the same mistakes with my child.
      Thank you Shalini for sharing your personal experience 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This was so totally insightful dear! I actually never gave this much of a thought, but really expecting something without setting the right example yourself is too much to expect from a child so young. Your suggestions to going about the right way to expect obedience are really thought-provoking. I am sure this will help so many parents! Great post yet again.
    @KalaRavi16 from
    Relax-N-Rave

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Kala 🙂
      The beauty of parenting lies in the flexibility of its approach. That’s why learning from real life experiences is the best way to go about it.

      Like

  4. RamyaRao

    Every time I read your post, it touches a chord that I have kept hidden. I have been an obedient child and I think my parents are controlling too. When I disobey them I feel guilty. They have made me like that. I want to break the shackles and move away but live them dearly too. Okay. I told too many things out.
    As far as your post I am glad you came out of an abusive relationship and hats off to you for sharing it. You are a brilliant mother and this is the best post so far for me. Coz I can see how difficult it must have been for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Ramya for sharing your personal experience, it helps a lot 🙂
      It might sound silly but being able to pour my heart out on this blog and the ever supportive readers here have helped me immensely in coming out strong during a number of personal crises. I am grateful to every reader of my blog for inspiring me enough to keep going despite all odds 🙂
      {Hugs}

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Sara

    This post has a struck a chord with me and also made me realize the importance of difference of opinion and standing up for oneself. Sometimes children have really no choice other than obeying their parents and teachers and that makes me very very sad. Purists say that its only logical for children to obey their grown ups around them. I disagree. I’m always awed by younger kids who use their own sense of logic and reasoning to disobey their parents. Now this isn’t some kind of whim or stubborn behavior where they just want to do as they please but making adults see their point of view. Like several other kids many a time I had no choice but to obey my parents and teachers which has got me into bitter and very unpleasant situations. I never voiced my concerns and having a different opinion than the ones around me ALWAYS scared me and led me to believe I was in the wrong and now I know that it was one of the important factors in letting people always take advantage of me. Of course I feel upset with myself for tolerating such behavior but I finally managed to let it go. My parents too were growing along with me and I can’t hold them entirely responsible but simply learn from these experiences.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your last line sums it up very well Sara.
      It has taken me a long time to actually realize where the roots of my submissive behaviour lie. An understanding of the people’s behaviour with life experiences has helped me change the way I treat my child and also how I perceive actions of others. It is not about judging my parents or the way they brought me up, but about understanding human behaviour and learning ways to adapt better.
      Your comments are always food-for-thought. Thank you dear for being around.
      {Hugs}

      Like

  6. another enlightening and informative piece, Era. The tip I love most is: Practice what you preach. some parents are not actually the best examples for their kids. They tell their kids not to lie, then they blatantly lie in front of their innocent eyes. Thank you for that reminder. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank Rosema 🙂
      To practice what you preach lies in the very foundation of being a parent/ a role model. I often have to remind the same to myself because kids are always watching us and learning things.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post ! lot to reflect, agree with you totally; raising up kids with obedience has its own consequences. This is very common in some families, wherein the kids are even afraid to speak their mind out in front of their parents. We will find a totally different person when we meet these kids out side their home…thank you for sharing from your personal life… parenting is not easy, am glad to know the way you are raising Pari. I like the reward system.. its positive way of disciplining the child.

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    1. Though I might sound all composed and sorted in my words, I still have a long way to go in treading the thin line of making my child have free choices and obeying what I expect from her. I agree, in India especially, obedience is a given is expected from children from day one to continue all their lives. In such a society, breaking rules and choosing to be different can sometimes get pretty daunting.
      Thank you G. Angela for your support. It means a lot 🙂

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    1. I am sorry Paromita for making you feel guilty. Though I sincerely hope my post will help you allow more choices to your child to let him bloom with self-discipline and confidence just the way you’d love him to.
      {Hugs}

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I have been an obedient child as far as mom tells me. Yes there are times when I have questioned some things but most of the times my mom says that I obeyed. It wasn’t fear that made me obedient. But whenever I questioned why something had to be done, my parents had answers. I think openness is the best solution.
    I love the points that you have written down in this post. So much to learn here.

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  9. I am pretty much an obedient child 95% of the time.
    The remaining 5% of the times, I have just been disobedient in these two cases- creating a blog, and writing my first novel. Not exactly disobedience, but I never intended to tell anyone about it when I started both the blog and the novel.
    I’m loving the tips you’re posting everyday, and I keep reading them because even though I’m not a parent, I find that these tips are very much applicable to anyone and any situation. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Fabulus for diligently reading all I post, it keeps me motivated to keep writing 🙂
      And not telling everything to the parents is pretty natural and normal for teenagers, as long as you aren’t harming anyone (yourself included) I think you’re doing fine.

      Like

  10. Such a moving post with excellent points for any parent, or just anyone out there, to go over and remember. Obedience can be overdone, and much of it is taking away free will away, which is probably the most important weapon on our road to self-reliance. I really like no. 8 — nothing is absolute. Thank you for sharing your personal experience …. it’s what makes blogging worthwhile, reading such stories.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. 2 AM Writer

    I love how brutally honest you are. It takes courage to see yourself as you are. As for Casabianca and the connection to obedience, The boy who stood on the burning deck will always be an image that I cannot shake off, such a beautiful metaphor you’ve used.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Loved it 🙂
    And what I am learning is being a parent is very difficult, they have undergo so many, so many tantrums of child .
    And everyday they need a new way to change the kids mindset
    ..
    Perfect theme and most importantly posts are more perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Shilpa Garg

    Obedience was mandatory in our generation. But with changing times, our kids should be thinking individuals who know what’s wrong and right and of course are disciplined in their thoughts and actions.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very rightly said Shilpa. Times have changed and so have the expectations from our children. We as parents need to let our children fly free to carve their own niche than trying to mould them in our pre-conceived beliefs.

      Like

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