As a parent, I want to raise children who will do the right thing because it is the right thing to do, not because they seek approval or that they fear the punishment or consequence. Having been brought up in an Asian culture, I fear that we place far too much emphasis on obedience. When children do not do as they are told, they are punished for disobedience and I am concerned that it conveys the wrong messages.
When I read the following exchange between two sisters on a friend’s Facebook page, I had to share it with my boys. The names have been changed to protect their privacy but I’m sure you will agree that it is a very profound observation from an 8 year old!
Walking to cello lesson today, I overheard this conversation between my two little girls, who were walking and skipping ahead of me.
Elsa: “Anna, hold my hand okay?”
Anna holds her sister’s hand and asks: “Am I obedient, Elsa? Is it good to be obedient?”
Elsa: “No. It is not good to be obedient. It is better to do what is right.”
Anna: “Huh? What??”
Elsa: “You should do something because it is the right thing to do, not because you want to be obedient.”
Anna: “What?? Why??”
Elsa: “Well, for example, if I tell you to do something that is good, if you’re obedient you’d do it, and if you want to do the right thing you’d also do it. But if I tell you to do something bad, if you’re obedient you’d do the bad thing, but if you want to do what is right then you won’t do the bad thing. Get it?”
Anna: *looking thoughtful*
Elsa: “And that also goes for everyone else in your life okay. Don’t be obedient to anybody. Just always choose to do the right thing.”