Rethinking the Well-Behaved Child

A couple weeks back was parent-teacher conferences for baby girl's daycare.

Her report was glowing: obedient, well-behaved, follows instructions, knows to how to stick up for herself and use the word no.

With the exception of the last two, the rest leave me concerned.



follows instructions

They all made me think of the following quote:


Her report reminded me of myself as child.

I was a compliant child who did what was asked. I rarely spoke up and secretly marveled at (and envied) kids who voiced their opinions and dislikes. It took me decades before I learned to be vocal about where I stood and more often than not, I still am not as outspoken as I'd like to be. And I still think I follow the rules too much.

That's not exactly the path I want my girl (or my boys) to take now. Of course, when I was a new mom that's exactly what I wanted: kids who sat still and listened on command. What I got was an outspoken oldest child, a free-spirited middle child and a baby who laughs in the face of danger.

Teachers applaud the obedient child. While the raucous child who colors outside the lines is tagged for less-than-stellar behavior. Down through the years, I've noticed that it's the ones who buck the system and look for exceptions to the rules who climb the ladder and more often than not, make things happen. Or maybe it's just my skewed view that makes me see it like that.

Either way, I'm not so sure that what I want is totally obedient and compliant children.

I think of my husband: he's well-mannered but not always well-behaved, especially when crossed wrong. I kinda like that. He questions things and doesn't always accept what I think has to be accepted. Sometimes he won't take no for an answer. And other times he straight up bucks the system.

Sometimes it's disobedience that makes the difference. Not a rowdy disobedience, but respectful rebellion.  My hope is that my kids know how to navigate life wisely using obedience coupled with peaceful unruliness.

Don't get me wrong, I want kids who are well-mannered BUT who will also learn to bend the rules when necessary or make waves when it's called for. I don't want them to just accept anything but to question when appropriate. I want to raise kids who respect boundaries but will step over them if necessary for their well-being as well as others.

Were you a well-behaved, compliant child? Do you think it's served you well in life? Would love to hear your thoughts.