The Case for Non-Compliance


Can there be a case for non-compliance? Take a moment and picture your ideal summer day with your children. It might run the gamut from a quiet day at home to a “Bucket List” action-packed day. Although every mom’s ideal day may vary greatly, one common thread amongst moms probably rings true: their day will be filled with children who are in pleasant moods and respond to our requests and directions with eagerness and a smile. Non-compliance would not be present. I mean, we all can dream, right? 

Summer is here, and chances are we’ll all be spending more time with our kids. There’s a 100% probability at some point we will all find ourselves exhausted from the coordination of summer activities, too many late nights (I’m looking at you, DST), or from answering questions (demands?) from sunrise to sunset. While it would be nice if our kids would just be compliant with our requests and eagerly agree to whatever we ask, chances are that will not happen. As frustrating as that might be, I’m here to offer you some consolation and perspective on the benefits of our children pushing back, no matter how exasperating it might be. In short, here is the case for non-compliance.

The case for non-compliance: Safe Place

There’s a reason parents often feel like they see the worst sides of their children. It’s the same reason our partners and children will most likely see us at our worst. We are their safe place. They push back at us because children often have a lot of their day dictated to them and have often been compliant. By the time they get into our car after a practice or camp or walk through our door for dinner, their bodies are on overload; they need to decompress. We are their place for that. 

As Dr. Lisa Damour mentions in this episode, our home should be a place where kids can learn how to handle their big feelings and learn strategies for coping with hard situations. Kids aren’t born with an innate knowledge of how to act. As frustrating as it may be, our kids need us to be a safe place where they can learn to navigate their feelings. They need a place where they can be confident they will still be accepted even if they can’t keep it together.

The case for non-compliance: Reevaluation

How often do we do something simply because it’s a habit? Sometimes we need our kids to challenge us to evaluate whether something should continue to be done the same way (or at all). Sometimes we need an incessant “but why?” from our five-year-old or an exasperated eye roll from a teenager to make us consider why we do something. I have found that sometimes I really don’t have a good reason for doing or saying what I did, and when called on it, I have an opportunity for self-reflection. 

The case for non-compliance: Boundary Settings 

I was recently listening to an episode of Ask Lisa, and she mentioned that we don’t want our kids’ first time practicing saying “no” to be when they are in a high-stakes situation. Like most life skills, we must allow our kids to practice saying “no” so that when they find themselves in those “tricky situations,” they know how to navigate the landscape. While our days would be easier if our kids were fully compliant with our requests, that doesn’t help prepare them for navigating the world. 

I can’t promise it is easy to always practice what I’m preaching here. When I am tired and just want the path of least resistance, I try to remember when my children are pushing back or testing the boundaries of compliance; it is not only developmentally appropriate but important. Take a deep breath and remember, someday, we will miss this except, maybe, the case for non-compliance.