Over the years, I have read uncountable number of books on parenting, early childhood education and child psychology. Being a parent is lifetime commitment. We bring our children into the world and we are responsible for bringing them up to the best of our ability. Unfortunately, children do not come with a user manual. So when I was pregnant with my first child, I devoured book after book trying to learn everything I can about infants, their needs, nutrition, how to stimulate their learning, their stage of mental, physical and psychological development etc. And as my firstborn grew, I made sure I stayed ahead of the game and equipped myself with knowledge on how to deal with potential “problems” of an upcoming stage. When he was still an infant, I would read up on dealing with toddlers. When he became a toddler, I did my research on everything pertaining to preschoolers. My firstborn will turn 14 soon. I did my reading and research on teenage years when he was ten. This strategy has helped me tremendously in being prepared and knowing what to look out for and how to react when the “problems” surface.
One of the things my relatives and friends frequently tell me is that my children are “obedient”. They find it incredible that my teenager does not fight or argue with me, that my 3-year-old hardly ever throws tantrums and my pre-teen is an angel and a real joy to be with. These relatives and friends always tell me I should have more kids because I know how to bring up “obedient” children. Maybe I am doing something right, but before we get there, I would like to share a little more deeply about how I feel about the word “obedient”.
Obedience vs Cooperativeness
To be honest, I have never liked the term “obedience”. It conveys a sense of submissiveness. I prefer “cooperativeness” which conveys a sense of willingness. I do not want my children to be submissive to me. I much prefer them to be willing to work with me, to be on board with what I want them to do. I see cooperativeness as a quality that I can sustain all through to their adulthood.
In my opinion, many teenage rebellion problems stem from teens breaking free from submissiveness to asserting themselves. What if from young we do not expect submissiveness from our children? What if, instead, we seek and get their cooperation? I believe these young adults in our household will then not feel the need to break free of the submissive bondage and teenage years will be peaceful, if not enjoyable.
And if we think about it some more, it is very much the same for toddlers and preschoolers. The so-callled terrible-twos is a phase where these young children want to assert themselves. If we remove as much submissiveness required of them, we will see the reduction of tantrums. Of course I am not saying we have to let them do whatever they want. Quite on the contrary, we guide their behaviour all the time. However, we do it by getting their understanding and cooperation, not because we say so. And at times when the young children have no choice but to do what we ask, we as adults can gently and lovingly help them achieve those tasks. For example, a common scenario in my household is this. It is time to leave the house and my three-year-old does not want to put on her shoes. The objective is to leave the house, not for her to wear her shoes. Instead of forcing her shoes on, either my husband or I will gently carry her and her shoes and leave the house. If she refuses to leave the house, we will still carry her and apologise for bringing her out. We will also explain to her why we needed to leave. As far as possible, we do not convey anger or impatience and we most definitely convey our love to her through our words and physical touch.
Some may think we are being too permissive and not asserting our authority. I beg to differ. It is easy to rule by authority, which I feel is just a shade off from ruling by fear. What my husband and I do is we acknowledge that our child does not want to leave the house. We want her to know we are aware of how she feels. At the same time, we explain why it needed to be done. While this is just but one instance of such incidents, over time, she understands when it is time to leave, it’s time to leave, not because mom or dad says so, but because we need to be some place else. And she will begin cooperating.
What about you? How do you encourage cooperativeness in your children? Do share your strategies with us in the comments so we can all grow and learn to be the parents our children deserve.
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– Vivian –