Modeling Mutuality & Equality


Is there any lasting benefit to unquestioning obedience based child rearing?

In recent years there has been a resurgence of unquestioning obedience training among Christian parents.  It has been claimed that “child training is the conditioning of the child's mind before the crisis arises and preparation for future, instant, unquestioning obedience.” 

But isn’t the goal in child-rearing to teach them to run their own lives, not teach them to allow us to run their lives for them?

The difference is enormous and the fallacy of trying to teach children to master their own defects by teaching them to allow us to master them is being recognized. We live in an age which has lost its faith in the ability of autocratic authority to do more than control the physical life, and many have begun to realize that it is not merely the physical life of children which needs control.

No one should expect children to act like clockwork under a system of training, first because they are not clocks, but human beings, and secondly because there is nobody to apply systems but other human beings.  When two fallible human beings come together there are bound to be clashes, no matter how ideal the theory may be.

Many parents attempt to have it both ways at once, with the expected loss of balance. We say to a child, "You must mind me because I will tell you what is best to do," but when at times the child is able to point out something better to do or equally as good, we do not rejoice over the child’s increasing ability to reason. No, we are alarmed at this use of his brain and quickly shift our weight back to the  leg of “unquestioned authority.” 

By doing this the child hears, "The real point is not that you do what is right, but that you mind me."  

We want our children to learn reasoning skills and hope they mature into reasoning adults.  But we try to shut off reasoning about the one force always present in their lives, “the reason why Mom/Dad says so." 

The crux of the matter is the object of that verb, "obey." What is the child to obey? Is the child to continue, as one must in childhood, obeying the will of another because it is stronger? Or is a child to be initiated little by little into the idea that the will of another is to be obeyed only when the commands are virtuous?

In guiding a child to exercise their reason in deciding between right and wrong, the parent will have the satisfaction of knowing that their efforts are directed towards a much longer lasting accomplishment.

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Many people don't grow up because true maturity isn't about marveling over one's powers. It is about becoming like Christ who came not to be served, but to serve.