I heard that word in reference to my son at one of our first trial therapy sessions last year. That word just doesn’t sit right with me. The therapist (who wasn’t a good fit and we haven’t seen since) asked my husband and I “So, you want him to be more compliant and obedient? That’s your end goal?” I hesitated and thought about it for a minute before replying. “No. I don’t want him to be more compliant.”
Compliance is the act of agreeing and doing what you’re told because an authoritative figure tells you to do so. I don’t want my son to be compliant. I want him to question things. I want him to ask “Why?” and make choices that fit the outcome that he wants. I want him to understand that every choice he makes there will be a consequence; some good and some bad. I want him to be the strong-willed boy that he is. Compliance would take that away.
What I really wanted then and now for my son is for him to learn how his choices and actions can effect others. He has so much empathy for others and I want that to be the forefront of his choice making.
The word “compliance” makes my stomach turn and my head woozy. I feel like it’s a jail sentence, a threat. “Be compliant, keep your mouth shut, and only speak when spoken to.” That’s what that word in reference to my son feels like to me. It feels icky and wrong.
My son is creative, brilliant, imaginative, thoughtful, and caring. Compliance doesn’t allow those traits to shine.
Yes, I want him to listen to and follow directions more often, but it’s more than that. I want him to know that as his mom, I want a mutual respect and an open line of communication. When I ask my son to do something, that’s just it… I ask. I don’t demand that he does something.
My son knows that if he helps clean up around the house, is kind, and does follow directions that he gets rewarded with “filling his bucket” (our positive behavior rewards system). While this isn’t quite intrinsic yet, it’s becoming more and more natural for him to help without looking for the reward/ good consequences.
This system may seem like a lot of work when you can just yell, demand, or force your kids to do what you want them to do. However, easier isn’t always better. I’m looking at the bigger picture; the long haul. I want my son to take ownership of his own choices. If I make all the choices for him, he’ll never learn the importance of his actions and behavior in regards to others.
I don’t want him to ever just comply because he’s told to: I want him to know why, ask why, and then choose to make the best choice for his desirable outcome.