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Authority And Obedience

John K. Rosemond on

The following statement is true: A child’s natural response to the proper presentation of authority is obedience.

The following statement is also true: Most of today’s parents -- I’d estimate over 90 percent—do not act like authority figures.

A woman tells me her 5-year-old does not do what she tells him to do. I disagree, pointing out that children almost always do what they are told.

“I’ve never heard of a 5-year-old who would not do what he is told,” I say. “Now, I’m not suggesting that you’re going to get 100 percent obedience, even under the best of circumstances. In my experience, however, 85 percent is worst possible scenario.”

“Well,” she replies, “my son won’t do anything I tell him to do, ever.”

“Please don’t be offended, but I’ll venture that the problem is not your son; rather, it’s you.”


“How so?”

“It’s very simple, really,” I said. “Children do what they are told. Your son is not doing what you think you are telling him to do. The only logical conclusion to draw, therefore, is that you are not telling him to do anything. Instead, you are doing what most parents do these days: pleading, bargaining, bribing, cajoling, reasoning, and explaining. That sort of approach invites complaining, arguing, and disobedience.”

“You’re absolutely right,” she said. “I’m doing all of that.”

This very frustrated mom had been trying to correct the wrong person, which is why none of her corrections had worked. In less than five minutes, I taught her the simple art of telling.


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