Essay by Kendab April 2004

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It is a curious thing that children never need to be told how to be disobedient. No parent instructs their child this way : "Now my son (or daughter), I want you to oppose me, and do everything you can to destroy my good and orderly instructions . . .". What usually happens is a slow and painstaking process of training, correction, discipline and warning, for up to 17 or so years, when the child is able to leave home - and having left home, the child may marry and begin the same process with the next generation which it has to raise.

The whole progress of Mankind therefore consists of an endless training of new humans to divert them from full-blown disobedience. Obviously, if disobedience was allowed to go on unchecked, a child's behaviour would become so antisocial it would eventually destroy its own life and the society in which it lived.

Most parents allow a certain amount of rebellion. They realise that the perfect child is unattainable, and they also may notice that the very rebellions which they try to suppress in their children are actually inherent in their own hearts. So a compromise is reached, where the parent works within a range of obedience and disobedience which it considers reasonable. Too much correction and the parent is in danger of trying to make the child better than itself - which amounts to hypocrisy. Too little correction and the child becomes unbearably destructive. So a tolerable level is found, and the child soon works out how much rebellion it can 'get away with' before it passes the line.

This is not to say that all rebellion in a child is deliberate. Sometimes its behaviour is the result of ignorance, curiosity or forgetfulness, but there are always times...