Father Knows Best?

The idea that parents should control and influence their children in order to become productive adults in society is one that is widely accepted. Many parents even feel that it is their “right” or “responsibility” to set limits on their children by use of authority. Some feel that children actually want limits.

These beliefs are powerful ways to justify the use of parental control and punishment. However, it is one thing to communicate to your child the behaviors that are acceptable to you or not and it is something else completely to control and set limits on the behavior that you disapprove of. The latter is simply flexing your power, not (and I repeat, not) creating an influence.

When parents use their power in this manner, the negative side effects on children are sometimes life-long. In fact, most parents hold varying degrees of resentment themselves towards their own parents for things that they experienced in their childhood.

“It is a strange paradox that parents remember how power felt to them as children, but “forget” when they use power with their own children.” – Dr. Thomas Gordon, P.E.T. Book

Not only does this use of power breed harmful coping mechanisms, but many parents find out that it actually stops working when their children grow into their teen years. As kids grow up, they become aware of the fact that they can also become less reliant on their parents for getting their needs met (i.e. making their own money, getting a job, etc.). This realization also translates to a gradual loss of parental power and ends up creating the exact behaviors that the parent is trying to put a end to.

Power does not in fact, “influence” your children. It is only a way to compel or prevent ways of behaving.

The point is this: It is much more likely that parents’ values and feelings which are expressed through non-power methods of influence will be taken into consideration by your children versus attempting to express them with power. Not so powerful after all, perhaps?