Tell Me How You Exercise Your Authority, and I Will Tell You What Your Kids Will Be Like

July 26, 2017

How to raise a child: This has become a tough issue because there seem to be more and more people who want to be involved. On the other hand, although there has never been a manual that explains how to be good parents, there are valid general criteria for child-rearing. One of them is the authority that parents should exercise. Although this concept has changed a lot over time, it has not disappeared.

Before, parents exercised their authority in a certain way, and normally, the child would obey. They knew they should simply do it and that was that. It had to do with authoritarianism that the child respected because they feared the consequences. To make the child listen the parents would use strategies the ranged from threats to physical spankings. Punishment was the core of this type of child-rearing. 

“The only law of authority is love.”
-Jose Marti

Today it seems that the total opposite is happening. Complaints about a visible lack of authority from parents keep mounting. Their authority is no longer recognized by many children and exercised in fear by the parents. We have even gotten to the point where parents are mistreated and children are dictatorial.

Authority in Child-Rearing

Rules are important in maintaining authority and to set limits to arbitrariness. Limits is what gives a human being stability. It is the parents, or the adults in charge of the child, who should make them obey the rules. Many do not do it due to negligence. Setting limits requires a lot of effort.

Children tend to be capricious. That is why it is important to make them understand that they cannot do or have everything they want. That things need to be earned with effort, and many times, despite putting forth effort, you still may not get what you want. If the child is small, they should be taught to obey because he is the child and the adult is in charge. That is why he should obey what he is told, with no explanations necessary.

It is possible to converse with older children. Analyze the reason for the rules, but also make them understand that they are not negotiable. The family should march to the rhythm set by the parents because they are the ones who are in charge. Because they are the adults. Because if the child wants to do it differently, he first needs to become an adult and be able to take care of himself.

Establishing and maintaining authority can, in fact, create a lot of conflict. Children are people who have not developed their judgement skills. That is why limits frustrate them and can lead to the well known tantrums. Some parents, exhausted by the battles waged in other areas of their life, give in to those tantrums. That is exactly what should not be done because trying to recover the authority once lost is much harder than keeping it in the first place.

Extreme Permissiveness and its Grave Effects

Lack of a consistent authority figure can leave negative imprints in the life of any human being. First, it can lead to anxiety and insecurity. When parents do not set limits, or do not respect the limits, the child can feel as if they are walking on unstable ground. They do not have a point of reference to which to cling, even if it is just to criticize it.

Although some parents do it with the best of intentions, there is no doubt that extreme permissiveness is the wrong road to take. Children are given pleasures so that they do not have to endure the hardships of the parents. They are not given responsibilities. They are allowed to do what they want based on an erroneous concept of freedom. From this lack of authority come children who are willful, indolent and full of prejudice.

Worst of all, when they are adults they will lack the tools needed to face reality, which is full of limits and impossibilities. For a certainty, they will not have the strength needed for life’s big problems. They will often feel frustrated because things do not turn out how they would like and they will not know how to manage that frustration.

Affection and Closeness are the Sustenance of Authority

Exercising authority without affection and closeness is more like tyranny than teaching. A father or mother who only comes into their children’s lives to give orders or demand something unleashes many mixed feelings. In that case, it is just an exercise of power to make them submit and not authority for the purpose of training.

It is very important that parents spend time with their children. To talk, to play, to get to know them and let them know you. In short, to form strong bonds. When the child can feel that the parents are loving, they will also be more willing to accept their authority. And will understand that it is not exercised arbitrarily, but rather it is training for their lives.

Children who grow up without parents nor authority will act accordingly. They will think they are always right. It is possible they will try to use others for their own end. They will not assume responsibility nor will they face problems. They will not have self-confidence and will think that money can buy anything. In the worst cases, they will also flirt with what is illegal or will let it into their lives completely.