Why I Want My Son To Question His Authority Figures
Including his teachers, civil leaders and me.
I’ve always been a very “by the rules” type of person. I was raised to follow the rules. If I didn’t listen the first time my parents said something there was a price to pay for it. I was never afraid of abuse, but I understood what was expected of me. Paddling, no electronics and being grounded didn’t have much of an effect on me. I was more afraid of losing my parents affection and approval than getting any sort of physical punishment.
I was raised in a fairly conservative church environment. Looking back on my time in that place I was taught a lot of incredibly close minded, egotistical, judgmental and scientifically incorrect things straight from the pulpit. Most of the things I was taught in that conservative church environment have been replaced with kind, loving and fact based thought. Thanks in part to the community I’ve found through the friends whom I currently spend my time.
I’ve held on to some of the good things I was taught by the Church as a child. I always leave a meeting room or someone’s home in the same or better shape than I found it. I offer to help others whenever I can and I treat my wife better than I treat anyone else.
Respecting my elders is something I’ve also tried to follow. Although the way I see respect has dramatically changed since I was young. Respecting someone, as I was taught, included doing whatever was asked of me. This included when I disagreed with the things I was asked to do or participate in as a child and youth. It was about being “under authority.” The idea was, that in God’s eyes, I wouldn’t be held responsible for my actions if incorrect because the one in authority over me would be held responsible. This could be a pastor, small group leader, or generally anyone who was an older than me.
I don’t see respect in that twisted and controlling way anymore. I now see respect as treating someone with dignity and staying as polite as needed when disagreeing with them. Plus, as I get older I am beginning to understand why more patience and care should be used with those older than I. Things are harder than they used to be and change isn’t always easy. I find myself becoming more set in my ways.
The practice of staying “under authority in order to keep God’s protection” lead to some verbal and mental abuse by authority figures in my life at the time. These individuals were in the Church and did not include my parents. My parents are amazing. They are not the perfect parents, but neither are my wife and I. Those spiritual leaders wronged me in some very profound ways that affect me to this day. Even decades later. I never would have been hurt like that had I been taught to question things rather than to just submit.
I was a hard-headed kid. Describing me as a bull-dog, once I’d made up my mind to do something, would have been an understatement. The problem, as I see it, wasn’t my tenacity as a child. The issue was that I didn’t make up my mind like that very often. I began to make more choices as I grew older that were of the unbending nature. I began to ask questions as I became a youth and young adult that the Church leaders I was dealing with were not (and frankly still aren’t) willing to honestly answer about the Christian faith. I was asked to leave one particular church because of my questioning, but only after I had put down some very deep roots of friendship, shared history and hopes for the future.
You might now be wondering, “Wow, why in the world would you want your son to ask the sorts of inquiring questions that caused you to be ostracized from your spiritual family?” Had I questioned things earlier on in the process my roots wouldn’t have been so deep and being asked to leave wouldn’t have hurt so much.
I want my son to question not only me, but anything he is told by others. Not in an X-Files “Trust No One” conspiracy sort of way but in a trust and verify sort of way. When I say that I want my son to question things I mean it in a very specific sense. There are times to question how things are being done and there are times to stay quiet and act. The later includes cases when there are chances to be immediately physically harmed. This is particularly important when he is young. Mr. Dude is almost at the ripe old age of two. He’s still learning what danger even is and why to be afraid of some things. Parking lots, scissors and electrical sockets are a particularly interesting flavor of danger to him right now.
How do I expect him to tell the difference between questioning in the moment or questioning later? My tone of voice is a big key right now. The sort of questioning I want my son to partake in will probably not start until he has a better grasp on the English language. This doesn’t mean he won’t start questioning everything soon. I hear a favorite question of 2 to 3 year olds is “Why?”
“Why?” is a great question after all. It requires a person to explain what it is that makes their choices or actions valid. It demands an explanation for the logic behind a decision or idea one holds. “Why?” can be a series of questions all wrapped up in one word. It can make people uncomfortable but allow them to prove themselves when tested.
- Why do we have to do things this way or that?
- Why do you think this or that?
- Why might this be a good or bad idea?
The list goes on and on. I know I will not always like being questioned. I know questions can cause waves, but I also know that this one question could have saved me years of trouble in my life if I’d simply asked it earlier. I know in time that being questioned by my son will cause me some stress. It will also cause me to consider and reconsider what I believe and make sure that I am confident in the choices I make while raising him. When I make mistakes I hope I am always grown up enough to take responsibility for them. I also hope that when my son asks me Why, and I don’t have an answer, that I can be honest with him. I think admitting that makes a lot more sense than trying to just make something up to save face.
Why do I want my son to question me? I want him to grow into his own person and not just a carbon copy of me.
What do you think? Would you like your kids to question you?