So, there's a pretty awesome article up on Attachment Parenting.org that seems to have everyone in a tizzy. Titled, I Am Not Raising Obedient Children, it articulates my own thoughts on the subject perfectly.
I do not want a passively obedient child. I want a child who thinks for himself and chooses his actions out of preference rather than my say-so. That might mean that he learns socially appropriate behaviors by FIRST acting (as others would call it) disobediently. So, like the author of this excellent article, I would indeed prefer my child act disobediently and question my authority.
The comments accompanying this post are, to me, somewhat alarming. It seems that everyone has the same belief; given half a chance, every toddler in the known world will instantly run into the street and die. Avoiding this future is then the primary reason most parents discipline their children and practice a punishment and reward system of behavior modification. Seriously?
Why is it always the street. Parents seem deathly afraid of the street, and I really can't figure it out. I've mentioned we're car-less? Yes, well, my two year old doesn't seem very keen on playing in the street, and he's never once been punished or disciplined regarding proper roadside behaviors. Yes, when he was younger, he liked to dart into the street. Mostly because he didn't understand the differentiation between a sidewalk and a road. I was mindful of this fact, and kept a close eye on him as we walked to and fro our differing destinations. Sometimes, I had to chase him down. Sometimes, we just talked about the road and cars, and the danger I saw. Sometimes, we noticed dead animals along the side of the road and they served as excellent natural examples of why I 'preferred' K walk only on the sidewalk.
It took time. Months in fact, but today, he walks the sidewalk without holding my hand. He stops of his on volition at every cross street and carefully waits for me before continuing across. He notices the cross-walk signals, and even juts his hand out in a stop motion if he feels that a car is edging too much while we cross. He's not quite two and half.
So, the road people? Really...that's the best excuse for why one should utilize punishments and rewards. It seems a bit weak to me.
The other comment I saw often mentioned was that our children must learn to respect authority because there are certain instances where the parent or caretaker can foresee a dangerous reaction BEFORE the child. Or, they can understand the harm being done by the child's action better than the child...or maybe they just have a better grasp upon compassion than said child. For example, the undesirable behaviors of hitting, biting, or other physical actions that might cause harm to themselves.
So, I don't punish these behaviors, and, so far, we've yet to really experience anything like these. And, honestly, if my kid wanted to hit other children, or otherwise physically harm them, I'd be too alarmed at the emotional state of my child WHO WANTS TO HURT PEOPLE to even consider punishing him. So...I'm not sure what else there is to say about that, but before punishing your child for harming another, maybe the parent's role should be to first understand WHY their child WANTS to hurt said child?
As for climbing too high, or running into the street, or some other action K might undertake that I might foresee has a dangerous consequence, I TELL HIM what I see. I explain how his chosen action might end, and present other choices of behavior or action that might be safer. If he still prefers the dangerous activity, then I either stand by until needed (if he's climbing something high, ect..) or physically remove him from the danger (like a moving car on the road). And, frankly, there's not much trouble with this type of behavior. NOR, do I consider this sort of exploratory, testing-limits, style of behavior to be bad. I think it's good and healthy and simply requires a mindful physical presence on my part. Not too hard really.
And finally, folks seem to think that it's best that we get children used to listening and obeying an authority figure early on because that's just how life works. We don't get to do whatever it is we want to do when we grow up, so why on earth would we teach that this is true to our children?
Well, if you are an anarchist like me, then you DO actually want your child to grow up and see the difference between a free state and a regulated adulthood. And, if you're not an anarchist, then doesn't it at least bother you a teeny tiny bit that you're squashing some part of your child's innate personality and human construct just because. Just because that's...how things are done? hmmm...it's certainly worth some thought.