I was raised to be an obedient child but was never socialized about the ways of the world. I was programmed to have blind faith in my parents, adults, and church. And as long as my mother was alive, it was fine to be naive and trusting. However, without my mother’s protective presence being obedient became the Achilles heel that led me down the path of destruction.
Most parents raise their kids to be compliant and non-questioning human beings. Any dissension is scoffed at or dismissed. Worse, the poor child is browbeaten into submission. Either through violence, emotional blackmail or religious half-truths.
Parental gaslighting is considered normal. It is for the child’s own good is the typical excuse.
Eventually, the child succumbs to the conditioning. Conflicting with adults leads to rejection and suffering. After all, every child wants to be loved and accepted.
Thus, becoming puppets who can be manipulated. Instead of becoming autonomous human beings, they become blind followers. And mom and dad are proud that their little one is an obedient puppy and proudly show off their creation.
However, this kind of blind obedience does not do anyone any good – for the child or the world. They become obedient to authority but lack moral uprightness.
Sure, they are socialized to follow but not to reason right from wrong or good from the bad. They are like pilots navigating an airplane that is programmed to fly a certain route but don’t know how to navigate the shit-storms that they will encounter.
How Parents Mess Up The Socialization Process
The process of learning to deal with and survive in society is called socialization. A child has to learn the social skills to navigate his environment. And who are the first teachers – parents of course?
Developmental psychologist Erik Erikson theorized that there are 8 stages of psychosocial development. Each of these stages is important for the personality development of a human being – from birth to adulthood. Attuned and supportive parenting helps a child smoothly traverse these very different growth phases.
However, most parents mess up in the very first stage of psychosocial development – the stage of the terrible twos. At this age, children begin taking the first steps toward independence. They’ll begin asserting themselves and want to have their own way. Many parents in their ignorance or due to their own dysfunctional childhoods see this as defiance and try to clamp down on their child’s increasing individuation.
Many children buckle down to parental dictates and become obedient and docile. This behavior is reinforced through praise and rewards by parents and society at large.
Sadly, children are thus molded into talking, walking obedient machines. Ready to follow orders. It may seem to be the right thing but in the long run, leads to a stunted personality. Furthermore, society too does not benefit from having ‘yes men’. It eventually, leads to moral decline.
Obedience Does Not Mean Moral – Nuremberg Defense
Children who grow up in homes that demand compliance with their parents’ expectations, demands, and rules become obedient but not moral.
During the Nuremberg trials, many war criminals, most prominently Adolf Eichman (one of the architects of the Final Solution) claimed that they were not guilty of the charges against them. Their defense was they were “only following orders.“
Yes, that’s what childhood obedience does to a person. They follow orders without thinking about the moral implications.
A Strong Self-Identity Critical For Socialization
A person’s identity shapes his self-esteem which in turn affects his social relationships.
Our parents and primary caregivers play a critical role in our personality development. How they relate to us, whether loving, critical, accepting, tolerant, condemning, authoritarian, etc, shape our core beliefs. If we are lovingly accepted warts and all, we become confident human beings, with a strong self-concept.
A person with strong self-identity will tolerate differences but not docilely accept bullshit. They will adhere to the rules but will not blindly follow orders.
However, if we are berated and not allowed to have a choice our sense of self gets weakened. We become compliant and obedient. Our parents will be pleased with our compliance but our identity has been compromised.
We will lack the confidence to deal with challenging and new social situations. Always looking over our shoulder expected mom or dad to make the choice for us.
This deeply embedded program will go on indefinitely or till mom and dad pass away. After this, we will try to find a replacement parent-figure, a dominating partner, a cult-leader or a religious organization.
An obedient child usually ends up being a clueless adult with poor social skills.
Obedience Could Lead To Deceit
This could eventually lead to two-faced behaviors – good in front of parents and mean, selfish when the adults are not around. Or showing one side in social situations while abusing weaker dependants in private. Most abusers very cleverly put on this act.
Remember the pedophile priests, the persona they present of benign godliness while violating boundaries, without a thought for the innocent child. They were probably obedient little boys, pretending to be good.
How Parents Can Foster True Socialization?
Parents and primary caregivers play a pivotal role in a child’s socialization.
Are they healthy mirrors to a child? How do they model positive social behaviors? Those early years are critical for fostering true socialization skills.
Nonetheless, one has to be mindful of what is appropriate for your children at whatever developmental stage they are in.
1) Start With The Basics – Manners
Manners maketh a man, is very true. Manners are the basics of socialization. Teach your child to say please, thank-you, excuse me, etc.. However remember, kids always mimic their parents, ‘What they see is what they will imitate.
When parents model good behavior your little one will automatically follow suit.
Oh, there will be that odd temper tantrum and occasional sulking. The key is you not getting triggered to react negatively. Good parenting is all about the right perspective, being fully present and having a growth mindset.
2) Teach Boundaries For Themselves And Others
Teach your child about boundaries – no one is allowed to violate them physically, emotionally neither can they erode someone else’s boundaries. That includes their body and personal things.
We need to give our children permission to decide if they want to share their toy, play with someone. Listen to what they are saying. Allow them to say ‘No’ to something, even supposedly healthy food once in away. Feeling that they are in control makes a big difference in how they navigate their social world.
If you as a parent don’t respect them as unique human beings with rights and feelings, they will definitely be poorly socialized, encroaching on other people’s feelings.
3) Feelings Matter But At The Proper Place And Time
Teach your child there are public spaces and private spaces. Some things are just not allowed in a public space, like throwing a tantrum at a department store for that new toy. The rule has to be if you make a fuss you have to leave now. My agreement with my son was ‘pick one item within this amount.‘ this not only gave him the freedom to choose but also was an important finance lesson.
Intervene immediately and firmly whenever a child is misbehaving. Don’t ignore obnoxious behavior like this mother who refused to correct her son when he had his legs up on the subway train. Despite, it being so obvious that the boy was overstepping the bounds of propriety, she ignored his behavior.
Kids need to know that there is a difference between private and public spaces. It’s the parent’s job to teach their kids how to act around people, especially in public spaces.
Socialization of a child is an on-going process and any moment can be a lesson in etiquette.
3) Age Appropriate Responsibility
Hold your child responsible for their actions. However, do remember their age and context.
Recently a beauty blogger beat her 2-year-old daughter after the child ‘messed‘ with her makeup. Grace explains: ‘My two-year-old just got her a** beat because no matter how many times I tell her not to mess with my make-up, she never f***ing listens”.
Gosh, that mother is mad. How can a 2-year-old know the worth of a make-up set? It should be common knowledge that a toddler will pick up anything, particularly if it is shiny and colorful. Holding a little child responsible is a complete abdication of parental good sense.
Before holding your child responsible, ask is he old enough? Does he understand what he is doing?
Parenting With Wisdom and Tolerance
Parenting your child up the slippery slope to adulthood requires infinite patience and wisdom. You have to respect your child as an autonomous, thinking human being.
Good parenting is an ongoing state of active mindfulness. Recognize those moments when your actions and reactions can help your child learn and grow in the best possible ways.
Everyone, kids included likes to be treated like they are their own person – with respect and acceptance. Don’t use force or backhanded tactics to control your child. This only leads to anger and resentment.
Sure, have a few rules but allow room for negotiations and change. Raising your child to be non-questioning, obedient dummies may feel less stressful when they are young. But don’t expect this to translate into successful adulthood.
Hold space for their differences and let them blossom into their uniqueness.
Image Source: Pixabay
How to Raise an Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims
Becoming Brilliant -What Science Tells Us About Raising Successful Children – Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, Kathy, Hirsh-Pasek
How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish
Keeping Your Child in Mind – Claudia Gold