Thursday, 16 June 2011

Chores & Underlings: Obedience

Question 1. How can I make my child listen?
Answer 1. You mean 'obey.'
Question 1.a. No, no, no, not at all.
Answer 1.a. Oh, yes, you do. You just shy from the word 'obey.' You still mean 'how can I make my kid do what I want my kid to do?
Question 1.b. Well, okay... maybe. But how?
Answer 1.b.  Go back to the beginning and order a child with the Voice Command Software pre-installed. Sorry, it is not available aftermarket. There is no app for that.

Question 2. 

Why do my kids do what the teacher (scout leader, neighbours, etc.) tell them to do and it never works for me?
Answer 2. Because your kid trusts you. You can destroy that, if obedience is more important...
Question 2.a. No, no, I don't want obedience, I just want them to _______________[fill in blank]
Answer 2.a. Yes: you want them to obey orders.


  1. I feel really stupid for asking this but why does trust in a relationship = no obedience to orders and requests? Is it because there is no threat and the child feels safe saying no? If they trust and love you wouldn't they want to do things to please you? I'm confused.

  2. It's not stupid --it just runs counter to our culture's indoctrination to such a degree that it is hard to think about.

    Yes, it is partly that they feel safe being real.

    It is a compelling idea, that 'they trust and love' equals 'want to please'... but that's not how the world works.

    Or, rather: it's not how people work.

    This is about love (and trust) being conditional. That is: the love and trust is SO the child will comply.

    It doesn't matter to the child what the conditions are, whether it's compliance for love, or compliance for food, or compliance for a safe, stable home... it's all compliance to someone else's will and it will ALWAYS create conflict in the child... in addition to eroding the child's value of the item in trade (compliance, love, food, stability).

    It's difficult being in a close and connected relationship, where we feel safe being vulnerable and real, with someone who is intentionally buying our willingness to go along with their plans.

  3. You're right, this is very hard to think about. I will read your comments a few more times and see if it penetrates my brain. :-) I hate feeling so dense.

    So, what I'm getting is that wanting to please = compliance = erodes the value of the relationship because it makes it (love etc.) conditional?

  4. It is exactly that, yes.

    We are (often, sometimes, ever) willing to enter into an economic (this for that) relationship with people --to get our needs met, to go along to get along, to get something we fear we can't otherwise get...

    But in close, personal relationships, that's always a problem. We always end up wondering 'if I didn't... would they walk away?'

    Would you walk away?

    When kids fear that parents might walk away, they might comply (alternately, they might go crazy, they might get violent, self-destructive). . . and they might not. But they don't feel safe, settled, helpful, cooperative, powerful, loved, or valuable.

  5. So how are then supposed to get them to listen then? Or are just supposed to let them do whatever they want (which pretty much my situation & im ready to abandon the ship any day now)?

    1. That is an artificial dichotomy --a cultural construct. That is: our society made up the fiction that there are only two choices (we have great difficulty coming up with more than two, and they're always extremes.)

      There are far more than two choices. But when you only see two possibilities, you simply cannot move away from the idea that one is terrible and one is ideal.

      'Supposed to' is nearly as much of a problem as the artificial dichotomy. There is no 'supposed to'... there is 'can' and 'may' and 'actually physically impossible' but there is no 'supposed to.'

      The real question: how can you step out of the box with only two choices and see the relationship from a broader perspective, including the idea that not-insane children might genuinely enjoy participating in life and feeling productive and capable?