Adults want kids to listen to directions, show respect towards adults and comply with authority.
Respect for authority and compliance with the rules established by those in positions of authority are the most popular expectations from adults that I’ve come across in my life, and it is consistent between parents and non-parents alike. Adults want kids to listen…period!
I argue that the cause isn’t about wanting to be disrespectful at all, at least not for most kids. The reason isn’t anything all that advanced or technical: the kid isn’t listening because he doesn’t want to.
Enter the well-meaning statements of adults about why he has to do it, even if he doesn’t want to:
“He has to listen to what I say. I’m in charge and that’s how the world works. People listen to the people in charge.”
While I completely agree with that statement, I don’t actually think that most adults agree with it. Sure, they agree with it as it relates to kids complying with adult authority; but they don’t agree with it as it relates to their own lives.
Adults seem to expect that kids will listen to and respect every rule that is put in place for them. If kids argue, disagree or ask why?, adults might say, “Because I said so” or some other phrase consistent with an Authoritarian parenting style that requires strict compliance with any sort of command. They ask kids to comply without an argument or excuse, because that’s just the way life works.
But what happens when they’re asked to comply with the directions of authority? Many times, they do the exact opposite of what they ask of kids:
Sometimes they blatantly disregard the rules.
Other times they push the limits set for them.
They look for loopholes so that they can do what they want to do.
They ask for extensions to deadlines.
They make excuses for lack of compliance.
They don’t follow the rules that authority has set for them…because they don’t want to!
Sure, every adult reading this article has plenty of examples of times when they’ve done what they were told to do:
They go to work, even when they don’t want to.
They pay their taxes, even though they don’t want to.
They might purchase health insurance, car insurance and home owners’ insurance because the law tells them they have to.
But for every example of rule-compliant behavior an adult offers, there are multiple non-compliant behaviors that exist:
When the speed limit says 75, they drives 80. When the speed limit is increased to 80, they drive 85!
When the IRS says they must pay X% of their income to the government, they ask their accountant to find a way for them to pay less than they owe.
When the government passes a law about health insurance, abortion, marriage rights or taxes, they fight it, complain about it, lobby against it and do anything in their power to avoid complying with it.
Sometimes, they call in sick to work for no other reason besides the fact that they don’t want to go to work.
When their boss asks them to do too many things that they don’t want to do, they might skip work, complain to a person in authority to the boss, or even quit their job.
So what does all of this mean? Why am I trying to prove that adults are equally as defiant as kids are to the people in authority positions? I’m trying to change your view point. I’m trying to bring empathy and understanding to the way you view a child’s behaviors.
Next time you give your preschooler a five-minute-warning and he throws a fit when the time expires, instead of viewing it as defiance, understand that your child really doesn’t want to be done playing with Legos, just like you don’t want to be done with vacation and might—just might—call in sick on your first day back from vacation because you need some extra time!
Next time your kids are running through the house despite the fact that you’ve asked them to use their walking feet, remember that you, too, regularly defy the speed requirements set up for you by the people in authority and dole out your consequences with that in mind.
Next time your toddler struggles to share a toy with a friend, remember how much you’ve struggled to share what you have with those in your community who need it more than you do before you judge your toddler’s selfish behavior.
And the next time your child argues your direction, remember that you and many other citizens of this country argue back, because sometimes, certain things are worth standing up for, regardless of what the authority figures in our lives say we should do.