Docile, Obedient Child Loves Learning

By JUDY LYDEN Scripps Howard News Service

In today's world, descriptive terms such as "docile" and "obedient" all too often are confused with "wimp" and "puppet."

In our fast-paced, rough race to some imaginary finish line where our self-centeredness frequently cuts in the way of others, we demand to be first and consider ourselves leaders. We want our children to be just like us, leaders. And that certainly doesn't mean docile and obedient. Or does it?

Beginning at the beginning, the very best leaders first learned what it means to be good followers. They learned docility; it's a good thing. It really means teachability. To be docile is to be easy to teach, open-minded and eager to learn. It also means manageability and having a willingness to accept direction and discipline.

Children who assume these virtues do so through example and by doing. They are not generally reared alone. They come from group settings such as large or extended families, day-care homes, centers and classrooms where the interests of many clamor to be heard.

To a parent or provider, a docile child is a joy. He absorbs information with glee. He is open to and excited by new adventures. He can be taken anywhere and has a good time with nearly anything. Docility and obedience are not common virtues today. Why?

Because too often children are raising themselves. It's a scary business for very young children to sense that nobody's "minding the store."

Children don't trust adults who don't lead, who allow nearly any behavior, neglect to correct disobedience and instead whine, scream and threaten, but never actually get to the enforcement mode. Children do not take such adults seriously.

Children who sense the danger of parent or provider chaos become hostility dependent rather than innocently dependent. And that's where we find horrible fits of temper, disobedience, second-guessing of parents and providers, refusal of direction and violence towards adult providers.

Docility is closely related to obedience. Obedience is the action of a docile child. It means to actually carry out instructions or orders, to put into practice the directives from the leader, to be guided by the lawful authority of parents and providers and sometimes other children. Such obedience is rare.

Children will not be obedient if they don't respect the adult in charge. In a world where children are left to watch their own store, they come to believe that the many viewpoints and variations on a theme are equal and that nobody is "really right" about anything.

Tradition, loyalty, friendship and most rules can be tossed by the wayside because of momentary whim. Now that we've thrown it away, what's left to believe in?

Rearing children to be the leaders requires adults to believe in good foundations based on something solid and real.

Adults have to nix the self-serving idea that leadership is a popularity contest or a quick fix that makes something very wrong seem OK. We have to quit bullying and punishing those who don't agree with our latest whim, and stop overcompensating those who do. That's not virtue, it's corruption.

It doesn't make leaders; it makes thieves.

Good adult leaders have the capacity to bend to the things they believe in.

These are the leaders children come to respect if they can find one.

These are the people children will never mind offering docility and obedience to in a flood of love and affection because they understand how virtue works and that the life of a child is meant to be docile and obedient , a treasured beginning.

(Judy Lyden is a licensed day-care provider. Write to her:
c/o The Evansville Courier, P.O. Box 268, Evansville, IN
47702, or e-mail to

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