Papa Talk – Draw the Line Between Obedience and Respect

It is every parent’s dream to raise children who are respectful and obedient.

They dread the day their children will exhibit open defiance in the presence of guests they dream about the guests leaving after showering the children with praises for being ‘such good kids.’

But are respect and obedience synonymous?

Can a child give one and not the other?

“Obedience means that we follow the instructions of an authority figure [while] respect means that we show due regard for the feelings, wishes and rights of others,” says Dr Justin Coulson, an author on parenting, while writing on

“We ask our children to be respectful when we really mean that we want them to be obedient,” he adds.

Where do we draw the line when trying to instill the two different values into our children, or is it a blurred, even non- existent, line to most of us? Many parents will not brook debate from their children when they are asked to ‘immediately’ do something.

For a child to even open their mouths to explain that they can’t do it ‘immediately’ because they were finishing an equally-important undertaking, personal or otherwise, would be met with fury.

‘Disobedient’ and ‘Disrespectful’ are the instant tags they would get. I do understand the predicament today’s children sometimes find themselves in as we were all once there. We were respectful, but sometimes branded disobedient and disrespectful if we as much as attempted to explain ourselves.

Coulson gives a case scenario as an example: “Emma [not real name] was exasperated as she walked into the living room where Cooper, her 11-year-old son, was playing on the Xbox.

“Cooper, I’ve asked you three times to empty your school bag, tidy your room and do your guitar practice.’

“Cooper responded by pausing his game. He looked at Emma and replied, ‘I know, Mum. But I’ve got about 10 minutes to go to finish this. I’ll do it soon.’

“Emma seethed. ‘You’ll do it now! I’m sick of repeating myself. None of you kids respect me! I ask you to do things over and over and you think this place is a damn hotel and I’m the maid! Now get off the stupid Xbox and do as you’re told or I’ll throw it in the bin!'”

Coulson contends that if a child does not obey the instant they are asked to do something, sometimes it is okay and other times it is not. The context matters – and parents need to be discerning as to when they demand obedience and when to be satisfied with a respectful delay or even denial from a child.

If we yell, threaten or treat our children disrespectfully, we cannot expect them to be respectful. We must stand on higher ground if we wish to lift others to where we are. Coulson believes parents can offer choices, something like: “Would you prefer to tidy your bedroom now or after we’ve done the shopping?”

When we give our children a say in the decisions that affect them, obedience and respect become less problematic.

Are you a father? What have you learnt or discovered about your youngsters and parenting? Share joys, trials, challenges, successes. Send them in 500 words to

Source : The Observer

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