Children will misbehave; that’s a given. But disobedience has its consequences, especially if not corrected. Uncorrected misbehavior can have long-term effects on children, ranging from a lack of self-control to confusion about the rules of society. Parents should learn the possible consequences of letting disobedience run free.
Absence of Self-Discipline
Children are not born with self-discipline; they learn it from their parents. According to Cornell University’s Kimberly Kopko, author of the article “Parenting Styles,” when you set rules for your child, you’re implicitly teaching her how to discipline herself. But along with these rules, you must make consequences clear and mete out discipline when necessary; if you let disobedience go without consequence, your child will not learn the value of self-discipline, which becomes increasingly important as she grows.
If you don’t intervene, your disobedient kid will always be a disobedient kid and will eventually become a disobedient adult. Disobedience can become a habit. Basic human experience teaches basic cause-and-effect, such as that touching a flame will burn your hand. But it is parental discipline and rule-setting that teach children about the laws of cause and effect in society. When a child hits his younger sister and steals her ice cream, he will only have learned that hitting and stealing yields delicious sweets -- unless his parent intervenes. If you don’t teach the interpersonal laws of cause and effect early, your child might learn them from harsher authorities, such as the police.
Inability to Fit In
Disobedience is common in children because it’s natural. What’s unnatural is for a parent to let disobedience take its course. Most children learn that rudeness, violence and bullying are inappropriate. As a result, a disobedient child stands out from the crowd. Rude kids have problems making friends. School-skippers have problems gaining an education. Disobedience is the anti-training for entering society.
A disobedient child who’s aware he’s breaking the rules is acting -- by definition -- in an arrogant way. Such a child might believe she’s above the rules. According to Cornell University’s article “Parenting Styles and Adolescents,” children who are disobedient tend to believe they have claim to privileges other children do not have. For example, a disobedient child entering school might believe that she needn’t do her homework, which can hurt her academic performance and even lead to her having to repeat a grade.
It’s hard to tell when a child is being purposefully disobedient or simply being naturally childish. Misunderstandings between teachers and disobedient children, for example, can come at their first meetings. Misbehavior that teachers and most parents commonly correct might flow freely in a child’s home, making a teacher question whether a certain child’s use of a certain swear word is intentional or a simple mispronunciation. Children might also feel confused by their acts of disobedience -- when some adults punish a child’s misbehavior and others don’t, a child might genuinely not know whether that specific action is inappropriate.
- Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child; John Gottman
- Between Parent and Child; Haim Ginott
- Cornell University: Parenting Styles and Adolescents
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