Passive & obedient

I was a passive and obedient child. Looking back now of course I didn’t quite understand what they both meant, but that’s exactly what I was. I had very little choice in my life.

I wasn’t taught how to respond to people and people in authority. One of the biggest dilemmas for any parent is how they teach their children to respond. There’s an art to how we deal with authority, not all authority is the same, but if children come to learn blind obedience, they will simply come to obey authorities, whilst losing their own way in the process.

Since parents are the first adult figures children are in contact with, it’s up to us to teach them what they need to know. Since children also follow by example, we need to make sure they get the passive and obedient thing right. Obedient children, doesn’t always represent good parenting from us, but I can see why many parents think it does.

We tend to work on the assumption that if children don’t argue, that they do as they’re told, aren’t stubborn and learn what is best for them that in some way we’ve done our job. With parenting in full swing, parents are often confused between obedience and respect. Children are obedient through respect for their parents.

Unfortunately, respect through obedience, blocks basic intuitive instincts that need to be put into practice and often let children down. Obedient children are often weaker, not as confident and are more fearful. Parents whose children have these character traits may often have similar challenges with authority and are often manipulated by people who are manipulating.

When we come to recognise these traits, we can work to change them. The difficulty comes of course, when we fail to see these traits in ourselves and struggle to adapt in our lives.


17 Dec, 2015

6 thoughts on “Passive & obedient

  1. I was a very passive and obedient child, who only wanted to make my parents happy!

    My mother used this against me to keep me passive and obedient once I reached a certain age and she couldn’t control me as much. She went way too far in brainwashing me and breaking breaking my spirit, which she did a fantastic job of.

    I would have much rather been physically abused, than have gone through the years of psychological torture that scarred me for life. People say things like, ‘time heals all wounds,’ which I’ll say politely is a fallacy in my mind! I have wounds that will never heal in the way they should and the best I can do is keep them covered to avoid any further injury.

    My point being that the most my parents showed me how to do was to be passive and obedient, even when you should be fighting back. The term, ‘learned helplessness’ came up in counseling for me, which makes a lot of sense looking back on my life patterns.

    I grew up, feeling like the only way to survive in the world was to be passive and obedient and therefore hopeless and helpless. It makes you not even want to bother living, since no matter what you do, people, places and things will always be out of your control.

    It’s a feeling like being out in the middle of the ocean, with no land in sight and questioning why you should bother fighting to survive! I like to use the expression, ‘A rebel without a clue,’ as in I have always been fighting life ,when it would have been smarter to work on changing how I dealt with it!

    My parents didn’t teach me how to deal with people in a normal manner, so it’s no wonder I have had such hard times. They taught me how to survive and just exist, but never how to really, live.

    I lost touch with who I really was at a very early age, so it’s not surprising that I have been dealing with life in the mindset of a child.

    The reality is that I’m much older chronologically and now have to figure out how to act my age. Kind of hard to do when part of you is still a teenager, forever!

    1. Thanks Randy. I believe my thoughts were my survival guide. From what you say, it sounds as though you weren’t given much choice. If you’re not being encouraged to think for yourself, you will be passive and obedient.

      It’s not the easiest just existing when so many go and live their lives, but if it’s not something we can change, we must try to get on with it.

      I can resonate with parts of your response. I feel for you, but know that you’re strong enough to change certain aspects of your life. Like it was for me, it’s very much learned behaviour, which needs to be unlearned and relearned.

      In an ideal world it would be great to think that all children have the same positive start in life, but we just have to turn on the t.v. and see adverts for starving children in third world countries and we know it doesn’t happen.

      We must learn now how to take the next step forward. Look back on our lives to see exactly what changes we need to make and learn to make those changes… so that we can lead better lives.

  2. Being passive and obedient as a child sure beats being passive and obedient as an adult, which is the case for some of us.

    But as children, we found ourselves vulnerable deep inside our minds, in a world we could barely understand. Being passive and obedient was our way of avoiding humiliation and a host of uncertainties; we grew and we learned.

    I think we sometimes forget that our parents were once children themselves, subjected to unimaginable things that may have shaped their way of seeing the world.

    1. Thanks Tim. I agree with you but would just add. Both are lifestyle patterns that if not nipped in the bud continue to be lifestyle patterns, which are hard to break.

      I’m also not sure that being passive and obedient doesn’t create humiliation and a host of uncertainties for us.

      Whilst we are happy to conform and in many circumstances it makes sense and is easier, in the longer term it’s harder to adjust when we eventually move away from those behaviours.

      If our parents as children have been subjected to a type of behaviour that is certainly deemed inappropriate, as the adult it would be up to them to change it for their children.

  3. OMG Ilana are you sure we aren’t related? I was reading your post on this and I swear your described me to a T. I was also taught obedience through respect as a child, because the adults knew what was best for me.

    Ever since entering adulthood and parenthood, I’ve struggled where I stand on situations with authority. And quite possibly having Cerebral Palsy, it’s easy to fall back into ‘doing what I’m told without questioning,’ even at my age.

    1. Thanks Bonnie. I know what you mean!! In all probability having Cerebral Palsy would probably make it harder for us, because we’re less independent, but I still believe even without having to deal with Cerebral Palsy, we’d still be in the same place.

      Being born to strict parents who teach their children how to be passive and obedient, will always expect them to be passive and obedient, no matter what their age.

      The hard part is learning to be more independent, so that we don’t fall back into the patterns we’re trying to move away from.

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