Teach Children to Question Authority: They Will Like You As Adults
March 4, 2017
by Molly Wingate
My adult son twisted his head toward me and sputtered, “I literally don’t have a place in my head for that.”
We were cruising a store of collectible books on South Congress in Austin, Texas when we both overheard the same snippet of a conversation between two women walking by us.
“Did you ever read her memoir?”
“No. My mom said I couldn’t.”
That someone’s mother would forbid their daughter to read book seemed unbelievable to my son. That the speaker was nearing her 30s and still hadn’t read the book blew my mind. And then there was the fact that neither woman seemed to think this prohibition was worthy of questioning.
In low voices because we were in a bookstore after all, my son, husband and I started talking about what we had heard and that my son couldn’t understand not questioning authority.
“You would never tell me not to read a book, first of all, and I would go read it immediately if you had!”
“I never thought of denying you a book.”
“We never wanted that kind of control over what you read or learned,” added my husband.
My son still shook his head, “I just can’t get my head around it at all.”
We left the store, continued our walk that lead into an afternoon of disc golf and dinner with old friends. At dinner, the overheard bookstore conversation came up again.
Our friends asked if the young woman said ‘Momma.’
“No,” my son replied, “She didn’t seem that deferential. But even that doesn’t explain it. She is an adult, now. She never questioned her mother’s decision. Never revisited it. I just can’t imagine it.”
Teach Kids to Question
As a Quaker household, “Question Authority” is our motto. How do you know that? Where did it come from? What do you think of it? Who says? What are you led to do or say? Is that how you want to be in the world? These questions have formed the refrains for conversations at our dinner table since my son could talk. No wonder the conversation he overheard struck him.
At 25, our son has thoughts of his own about how parents and kids should get along. (Lucky for us, he likes the way we all relate.) He is finishing up his studies and embarking on a full-fledged adult life — adulting, he calls it. It seems that instead of undermining our role as parents, all that questioning of authority in our house helped cement our relationship.