Why I taught my kids to question authority

My generation gets a lot of flak for being “disrespectful” to the older generation.  I have heard them say that it is because we are entitled brats that have been handed everything that we could possibly ever ask for without delayed gratification.  We get exactly what we want when we want it.

While that may be true for some in my generation, it is definitely not the case for the majority.  In fact, I remember my early years and the lessons that I was taught about immediate obedience and unwavering respect for authority.  Especially as little girls raised in the church, we were raised to keep silent and to practice compliance.  Never say “no,” never have an opinion, never talk back, never raise your voice, never question your elder.

And now we have the #metoo movement.  Any coincidence?  I think not.

I can speak from personal experience here.

I have heard the older generation say that we are “disrespectful” when:

  • We speak up
  • We are assertive
  • We have self-determination
  • We say, “No.”
  • We question them
  • We are political
  • We have differing opinions

The list above, however, has nothing to do with respecting another person.  It has everything to do with self-determination.  And self-determination can be done respectfully.

Autonomy and agency are good things.  Very healthy and safe things.  And that means that sometimes our children must question authority, must say no, and must speak up for themselves with assertiveness.

Now, as I stated above, I tried to teach my children to do all of this respectfully.  Maintaining healthy boundaries can be done respectfully. 

I have always taught my sons to think for themselves.  We must all teach our children to think well.  We must teach them to have original thoughts, ponder, contemplate, and speak up for themselves.  We must teach them that we are willing to listen and negotiate if they believe something is unfair.  We must teach them to keep themselves safe.

If we don’t teach them to question and think for themselves, they may learn to follow along blindly or stay silent during critical moments of abuse, which we have seen happen again and again.

And really.  What happens when we hear them out?  What happens when we respect their boundaries, negotiate terms, honor their voice, and hear their opinions?