My Kid Doesn't Obey

It’s true…my kid doesn’t obey. She doesn’t pick up her toys or set the table or get dressed if I tell her to. The thing is, she doesn’t like being told what to do. But then, neither do I. In fact, there are times when I’m not sure I could do what someone tells me to do even if I wanted to. Can anyone relate?! What can I say…I grew up in a household where you obeyed or else…!”

So, my kid isn’t obedient. But she is one hell of a collaborator! See, she wants to be invited to pick up her toys, set the table or get dressed. She also wants to be a part of the planning and decision making process – which means these things happen with a sense of rhythm, rather than on demand. She wants her ideas and opinions to be heard and understood for their unique value. And truly, she has some ideas that have a value all their own…priceless and exquisite…especially when it comes to the rhythm of picking up! LOL

And really, don’t we all want to be heard? To be invited into the planning and decision making? To feel our opinions are valued and valid? Don’t we all want to feel a sense of belonging in our families, at work, and among friends? To feel that what we think and what we contribute has some significance?

What holds true for us hold equally true for our children.
So my kid isn’t obedient? So what?! Neither am I!


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14 thoughts on “My Kid Doesn't Obey”

  1. that post made me cry.
    my 4 year old son is such a child. at home we deal with it beautifully and he is great! such a pleasure, really!
    but in school…. its a completely different story. the teachers expect him to obey, period. he is being punished and yelles at and sent out of class because he simplt does not obey. I involved the therapist and its an ongoing process, but I’m worried, how is he going to srvive the system for another 14 years??
    thank you for the post. I finally feel that my child is normal, that i’m noot alone in this, and that i’m doing the right thing.

    1. Hi E. – it can be very discouraging to watch our children as they face the world around them; a world in which they are not valued as humans, but rather expected to respond to commands as a robot.

      I commend you for finding a therapist for your son to help empower him to be in the world. I’m wondering if you could speak to the teachers about how you work with your son? Perhaps you can find a way to empower your son’s teachers so they don’t feel so threatened by his very appropriate choice to not “obey orders?” Contact me if you want some support in figuring out how this might play out in a positive, win-win, empowering way:

    2. It’s a wonderful idea to educate teachers in the way of peaceful cooperation in the classroom. I would love to see a post on this because most parents send their children to school and most teachers don’t know any other way than be authoritarian. It would be wonderful to be able to point FB posters (on the pages I follow) who have this problem.

      Another solution for an individual parent is to home educate.

  2. I would get lambasted by anyone I verbalized these kinds of thoughts to, including my husband, parents and friends. But I agree, my son cooperates when he is empowered. He does the opposite of anything commanded of him. Sure, it would be easier to raise kids who behaved like trained robots. I’m not sure how to obtain that kind of behavior but I’m pretty sure it would involve a lot of episodes that run counterintuitive to my nature.

  3. Thank you everyone for your comments and support – putting my life into words definitely leads me to into a place of vulnerability; but certainly without vulnerability there is no connection. I write in hopes to empower other parents to supported in their understanding of their children and their approach to parenting. And I also hope to help parents feel more connected to their children, which oftentimes involves changing our perspective from seeing our children’s behavior as “imperfect” to seeing their behavior as “valuable” – this simple change of perspective can lead us to a greater place of connection with our children!

  4. Sometimes they can’t make the decision whether or not to co-operate. If when invited and enticed they choose not to help, they may need to be told and possibly put in a naughty corner after a count of 3. It’s real life people. I rarely need to count, a few times a year maybe and then I may not get to three but lets not pretend your method of softly is the solution to everything. The child needs to do as they are told. It might save there lives one day.

    1. Parenting is a daily practice of courage. Each day we must step beyond our deepest fears of losing our children to death so that we can empower them to be capable, responsible, compassionate and courageous individuals. When we operate from “the child needs to do as they are told…it MIGHT save their life one day” mentality we set them up to be mindless followers with no ability to think critically. Instead of demanding, we TEACH our children how to be safe; we guide them with kindness and firmness at the same time; we empower them with knowledge, with the opportunity to make mistakes in the safety of our home, and with our unconditional love and acceptance.

      I would even argue that because I NEVER COUNT and because I NEVER DEMAND OBEDIENCE that I have trust with my daughter. If I were to call out “STOP” in a moment of distress and concern for my daughter’s safety she would automatically stop…not because she OBEYS me, but because she TRUSTS me.

      Sometimes our children simply decide not to cooperate – it’s not because they can’t, it’s because they don’t want to. Children’s behaviors always have a reason – they don’t choose not to cooperate because they want to “get our goat;” rather, they typically choose not to cooperate for one of several reasons: they’re not finished with their own work, they don’t understand WHY, they feel incapable of pleasing us, or they feel disconnected from us.

      When we choose to punish our children we choose to ignore the underlying REASONS for their behavior, reasons which are almost always tied to their underlying NEED for belonging and significance. And when we ignore our children’s NEEDS we create dissonance, disconnect and power struggles. Sending children to the “naughty corner” is simply ignoring their needs because we’re angry that we’re not getting OUR way. How often do we ignore our children’s requests because we’re busy doing something? And how often are we sent to the “naughty corner?”

      Note: sometimes I count…but only because she really likes to “race the clock…” LOL

  5. You dear young moms mean well, you love your children immensely, that’s apparent, but your philosophy of child rearing is one which is guaranteed to bring much heartache, for them and, ultimately, for you, and possibly for society at large.

    Civil society demands obedience to the rule of law, without such, we have anarchy. An undisciplined child (or adult) is, by their very nature, an anarchist, someone who inherently believes they may set up rules which they, personally, agree with, which they *feel* they want to adhere to, and are accountable only to themselves. The problem is, if each individual sets up his or her own laws, determines to do what he or she believes is right according to his or her own thoughts and ideas, and discards the moral law which is summed up in the Ten Commandments (you might want to read those again if you haven’t lately), there’s going to be conflict with others, and that conflict must naturally produce an uncivil society.

    By training your children in disobedience, and make no mistake about it, that’s precisely what you’re doing, you’re setting them up to come into conflict with the law, and someone, somewhere, be it the police or a judge (or their teacher at school), is going to hold them accountable someday for their unwillingness to obey, an unwillingness which you, yourselves, have fostered in them in your misguided parenting approach.

    You’re not doing your children any favours, as much as you love them, and you’re certainly not doing society any favours by allowing your children to determine right and wrong for themselves, to decide if, when, and where they’ll obey. Perhaps unwittingly, but you’re foisting your unruly, disobedient children upon us, your neighbours, and while right now that may not amount to any more than a simple irritant to the rest of us, down the road it may cost us much more than we’re willing to allow.

    1. Hi 6-kidz Momma – welcome to parenting beyond punishment.

      I notice you’ve made some inaccurate assumptions in your comment: one about our AGE, one about our families’ BOUNDARIES and another about BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION.

      First, it seems you are confusing PERMISSIVE parenting with PEACEFUL, GENTLE parenting. If you’ve not witnessed or read more deeply about peaceful, gentle parenting it can be easy to make inaccurate assumptions; however, there are clear and pointed differences between the two. We have boundaries in our home and we enforce them with respect and gentle guidance. If I wanted to raise a child to be susceptible to child predators, occult groups, and Nazi-type enforcement roles I would demand obedience; instead I’m raising a child with the critical thinking skills she needs to know when to trust and when to resist; I’m raising a child to be respectful to others and HERSELF; to be responsible to others and HERSELF; to be compassionate to others and HERSELF; to be curious, engaging, and thoughtful. If you are interested in learning about peaceful gentle parenting from a Christian author with multiple children, including grown children, I would love to point you toward L.R. Knost at Little Hearts Books:

      I assume your reference to the 10 commandments you is to the commandment to HONOR your mother and father. Honoring is not the same thing as obedience. The original meaning of “honor” in Hebrew, which as you know is the original language of the Old Testament, is “to be heavy” – the word is used to describe someone who’s word is considered important. A deeper examination of the Bible reveals that the commandment to “honor your parents” reveals that we are to honor them in the Lord – to let them guide us on our spiritual journey of having a relationship with God.

      Finally, the prejudice against young mothers is…well, sometimes taxing. I’m simply going to notice that you made an uninformed statement about our age (and as a
      byproduct our experience) and let it go.

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