Will My Child Become Disobedient?

Sometimes parents hear about our learner-driven goals of self-governance and self-management in the studios and wonder whether this will lead to disobedience or disrespect from their children at home – whether boundaries will become non-existent and that their children will become unruly renegades in all areas of life.

It’s a fair question. After all, it’s pretty unusual to allow children such radical ownership of their education, school governance, and studio management at such a young age.

There’s an important principle underneath this that we must understand, though:

Our goal at Acton Academy NW Indy is not for your child to be blindly obedient, but to be heroically responsible.

These are vastly different things. Blind obedience is passive; it just does what it is told, often to avoid getting in trouble. Blind obedience sits a desk all day and follows whatever rules are imposed upon it, regardless of whether they are reasonable. Blind obedience does not seek the good of those around it because its sole concern is avoiding negative attention.

Heroic responsibility, on the other hand, is active. It actively seeks out the need of a situation and pursues it without being asked. It has agency and autonomy, but uses it not for recklessness, but for good. It does not eschew authority, but identifies legitimate authority and seeks to honor it. And perhaps most importantly, it recognizes that the highest orders of good can only be done by those who are free, and it therefore wields its freedom to serve others for the overall benefit of the community surrounding it. (This, by the way, is a major theme of Lord Acton’s writings, for whom our school is named. “Liberty,” he once wrote, “is not the power of doing what we like, but the right of being able to do what we ought.”)

I’ll tell you a story to help you appreciate this in action. Last year we had a guest come into the studios. She was an expert storyteller and was dressed in a fanciful green fairy costume as she regaled our learners in a fun and interactive drama experience. At one point during the event, our learners started getting a little squirrely. In a traditional classroom, this is the point where the teacher would have jumped in and quieted the children down so that the activity could continue.

Remember, though, we value heroic responsibility over blind obedience. As such, the guides remained in the back, quietly observing how this would play out. Just a few moments later, one of the learners also recognized the direction things were headed and called the group to order using a clapping cadence that the children devised. Everyone stopped and looked at him.

“Guys…we’re getting a little loud. Let’s respect our guest and give her our attention.”

And with that, everyone settled down and turned their attention back to our guest.

The boy calling to order was 10 years old.

Our guest paused and looked at me with eyes wide, as though she had never seen such a thing before. Such is the case, I suppose, when you genuinely believe that children are capable of incredible things, and you trust them enough to step out of the way and let them actually do those incredible things.

So to get back to your question, will your children become disobedient? The truth is that it depends. It depends on what you mean by “disobedient.” If you seek blind obedience from your child; if you operate on a “because I said so” principle in your home; if you don’t see your child as a whole person deserving of an opinion and a voice, then perhaps, yes, your child will begin to question why it is that you are saying so and whether what you are saying is reasonable and true. You might interpret that as disobedience under such a paradigm.

However, if you value a heroically responsible child who proactively seeks what is right and good, who has the maturity and agency to wield the immense power of freedom to do not what he likes, but what he ought…well, that’s something altogether different. And I suspect that if you asked any of the parents in our community, they’d tell you about the profound and beautiful growth they’ve seen in their children in this area. In fact, we’ve posted their comments so you can hear from them first hand. Check it out here.

Did you find this interesting? Here are a few more that you might like:

Scroll to Top