Teach Respect, Not Obedience through Fear

Teach Respect, Not Obedience through Fear
Valeria Sabater

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Written by Valeria Sabater

Last update: 22 December, 2021

Many may be surprised, but demanding obedience doesn’t always result in giving the world happy children. Obedience is almost always achieved through fear, so the best thing to do is teach respect to our children from a very early age; that reciprocity and empathy are based on sincere affection.

Some moms and dads may not agree with this approach. Moreover, many of us have been educated under the pillars of that behavioral-psychology where doing something bad resulted in severe punishment and doing something good resulted in a reward.

Prizes and punishments are not always effective, especially because in the world of adults, society does not always reward us with something good “just for being good.” Children should NOT guide their behavior based on simple rewards.

It is necessary that they understand for themselves that the roots of good behavior are respect and dignity, and that they practice it spontaneously.

Obedience based on fear and unhappiness

Let’s start by clarifying important concepts. Just as obedience transmitted through fear causes discomfort in children, permissiveness also causes unhappiness.

With too many restrictions, children will only see walls around them. And with too much permissiveness, they will see no limits in their surroundings, and thus won’t know what is expected of them at any moment.

Extremes in raising children are not good. Therefore, it is first necessary to define what we mean by an “obedient child.”

Children who are only obedient at home

This is a very common type of behavior that teachers see in the classroom: children who abuse others in class, who do not show respect or who show behavior that is far from their behavior at home.

teach respect rather than obedience

When the teachers talk with the parents, they do not understand or believe that their child acts in this way, because at home they “are very obedient.”

The problem lies in the following: when we educate children with fear and punishment, they obey but do not deeply understand the concept of respect.

They act by obligation, not by understanding. Hence, in school, feeling free of family pressure, they tend to channel this fear and anger into disruptive behavior.

It is not enough. Sometimes, we can even see the opposite case. Children taught obedience in a severe parenting style show closed, fearful and defensive behaviors in other scenarios. Fear does not educate; fear damages emotional balance. 

Ways in which obedient children are usually educated

There are many ways to educate a child, and each family will undoubtedly have their principles and values that they want to convey to their children. But obedience based on submission is neither healthy nor pedagogical.

Let’s see the risks that an upbringing based on dominant and severe obedience usually brings:

  • Children do not dare or know how to express their emotions because any spontaneous act is reprimanded.
  • The child is taught to remain silent, to hide his tears because “crying is weak” or to stay still because “it is bothersome,” and ends up developing a very dangerous emotional and personal repression.
  • Obedience also seeks to “protect” the child from possible dangers. An obedient child is a person who will not cross out of the comfort zone of the home and who will be attached to that paternal and maternal bubble.

Obedient children taught with fear do not dare to explore, discover or open up to others. Fear is the opposite of happiness. It is necessary to change approaches and to teach respect, not fear.

drawing of children playing in the forest

Teach respect and happiness

It is not the same to say, “Shut up and be still, everything you do is annoying” and to say, “Can you please keep silent now? Mom is talking on the phone.”

Language educates and attitude is pedagogical. Serving as a model is the key to all parenting. While it is true that we all want to have children who pay attention to us, it is necessary for them to understand why they should listen to us and the purpose of always treating each other with respect.

Take note of these key points to reflect on the value of education based on respect:

  • Offer responsibilities to your child. It is necessary that from early-on he learns the importance of doing things for himself and taking charge of his personal belongings. Little by little, he will be proud of himself when he realizes that he is capable of doing many things and that we trust him.
  • Reason with your child about any rule you establish at home. Explain why it should be heeded. Talk to your child and establish a respectful communication where you can answer all his questions.
  • When you do something wrong, do not shout at or humiliate him (“You are clumsy,” “You are the worst child in the world). Instead of intensifying negativity, teach him to do things well.
drawing of a happy family

Understand their emotions and teach them to channel and understand these internal processes. For this reason, books like “La Crianza Feliz” (Happy Childhood) by Rosa Jové or “Infancia: La Edad Consegrada” (Infancy: The Sacred Age) by Evania Reichert can be very useful.


All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.