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Do We Really Want Our Children To Be Obedient?

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I was driving on our ‘slow‘ Australian motorway, talking with my good friend from Germany. He and his family visit Australia periodically for months at a time. He was telling me how scary it is to drive on the autobahn, the highway with no speed limit, because people drive like lunatics.

I asked him, “What would happen if they ever introduced a speed limit, would people get upset and start a riot?

In his strong German accent, he said, “You know… you would think that people should get mad, but I’m not sure! For example, when the Euro came, (when the Deutsche Mark was replaced), I thought people would be angry, but nobody cared… nobody said anything. It makes me wonder the same about the Nazis. When they came to power, nobody said anything… nobody cared!

What if, from day one, you had been ‘trained‘ to keep your mouth shut and obey orders?

Swiss psychologist, Alice Miller, carried out extensive studies on 19th century Germanic child rearing practices. The reason, she says, that the German nation so easily followed Hitler was because the majority of them had been reared to be ‘good Germans’. German parents were taught be strict and expect compliance because it was for the child’s ‘own good‘. It was found that the top Nazis leaders, the ones who carried out the most gruesome of the crimes against humanity, all came from households where you never questioned authority. You simple did as you were told.

The Nazis were not the first to blindly follow a dictator, this sort of stuff has happened all over the world and is still occurring today.

Every pocket of violence and hatred in the world is stemmed from ignorance and lack of love and compassion.

Children who are raised in democratic households, (households where everyone’s needs are considered) are given a chance to speak up, right from an early age. They are taught basic human values, such as love, compassion, empathy and trust.

If a child has been raised in a strict household, and has always been taught to listen and politely follow along, what will happen when the time comes that they really need to speak up? Will they know how to do it? Will they have the courage, when for their entire lives, they were trained to ‘do as you’re told‘?

Teaching a young child to be obedient might get some cooperation for a minute or two, but at what cost?

Enforcing obedience in a young child is a short term solution, with long term repercussions. Do you ALWAYS want a child to do as they’re told? Do you NEVER want a child to use their judgement when something doesn’t seem fair? What if someone is picking on them? What if someone is persuading them to do something that is wrong, dangerous or hurtful to another?

Allowing a child to say “No” or to offer their point of view, can certainly be confrontational for parents. Yes, it’s a pain in the butt to let kids have their voice, but you know what? I say letting a child freely express their opinion, is a thousand times worth it.

Parents are often told that we lose our power if we let our kids make some of their own decisions. But, a democratic approach to parenting is so much more peaceful for everyone, because democratic households strive to meet the needs of everyone in the family. Of course, we can’t always let a child have their way, especially if their requests are unreasonable. But, at the very least, we can  let them know that we are listening and that their voice be heard. We need to let them know that we are willing to cooperate with them as best as we can.

Obedience leaves no room for diversity. It leaves no room for enthusiasm. It leaves no room for the feeling of emotional fulfillment.

Kids need practice saying “No!

They need practice saying, “Let’s come up with a solution, because I don’t agree with you.”

So, I will never teach my kids to be obedient. I’ll model cooperation, trust, empathy and love. Of course, they can’t always get their way, and that’s just life. It’s definitely important to set a loving limit, if needed.

I’m a school teacher and I see so many disrespectful students in the classroom these days. Most of society would say that these children need to be taught more discipline and have even harsher consequences. But I see the opposite. When I see children who act out, I see children who need even MORE love, compassion and understanding, from all those around them.

I EXPECT my children to cooperate, and most of the time, they do! But, their cooperation is not a submissive one. They don’t need to obey my law, but we do NEED to live and thrive, in harmony together.

The things my children have to say, and their opinions, are important to the rest of the family. They may be little, but I want to let them know that their ‘voice‘ can be loud. I want them to feel confident enough to pipe up and say something, because who knows, one day they might be defending their rights and their freedom. I don’t want them to just blindly follow along when the next Hitler comes along!


If you need some help getting your child to cooperate, but want to use a more gentle approach, try these power reversal games.

If your child is aggressive and you’re looking for a more gentle approach, read this


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