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Why I Don’t Teach My Children to be Obedient

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Who would want to train children to be obedient, when we can bring them up to be discerning, critical thinkers with a highly developed capacity for big-picture thinking, for empathy for self and others and to value integrity and what feels right above the directions of authority figures?




It’s difficult for most adults to challenge authority figures if they weren’t allowed to challenge their own parent.

Children who are trained to be obedient are often too busy either trying to stay in the good books or feel too misunderstood and defensive to think things through clearly, including how their actions affect other people. Their motivation is to evade punishments rather than do what feels right. Authoritarian parenting conditions children to believe that they should do what they’re told whether they like it or not, whether it feels good or bad, and to not “talk back”.
It’s difficult for most adults to challenge authority figures if they weren’t allowed to challenge their own parent. Obedience training can lead to a susceptibility to being unduly influenced by peers or authority figures as children, adolescents and later as adults.
To have the courage to express our concerns and opinions in the face of authority or peer pressure, we need to be able to stay strong and overall at peace in ourselves. Most of us want this for our children, especially as they reach the teenage years!

To act from integrity and do what feels right despite pressure to conform to the norm or to authority, we need to be balanced and centered enough to make decisions based on considering the needs and feelings of others while also considering our own feelings and needs.

 

Shocking Research
In recent decades, there have been many interesting social studies exploring human behavior and what influences a person’s tendency to act ethically or responsibly or not. A famous groundbreaking study by Stanley Milgram, a Yale University psychologist in 1961 paved the way for many more, which have uncovered very similar results. When Milford asked university students to guess how many people would willingly comply if a person in a position of authority told them to deliver a 400-volt electrical shock to another person, they predicted that no more than 3% of participants would deliver the maximum shocks. In reality, 65% delivered the maximum shocks.
36 out of 40 people continued to do what they were instructed.




During the experiment, each subject was asked to press a button that they believed delivered increasingly high voltage electric shocks to the “student” on the other side of the wall if they gave the wrong answer to the “teacher’s” questions. Many of the subjects, while believing that the “student” was actually receiving shocks and hearing their protests and cries for mercy, including complaints of a heart condition, became increasingly agitated and even angry at the experimenter. Yet 36 out of 40 people, in turn, continued to do what they were instructed to do all the way to the end. Even when the “student” became silent when apparently receiving shock from a switch labeled “danger: severe shock” the subject continued based on the instruction that silence is to be read as a wrong answer.
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