So we are headed into Chapter Five of “Hold On To Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Kids” by Neufeld and Mate, but I had such an interesting comment on Chapter Four that I thought it really deserved a post. It was regarding the relationship between power and authority and the difference between the two. Fascinating stuff, and it really got my brain cells ticking! Thank you so much kind reader!
This book is a good, thought-provoking read for all parents. It really is an ultimate attachment book, but because it is dealing with the battle of peers versus the family unit, it may be one that says things and rubs parents the wrong way until they have the experience of their children being a bit older. After all, it is hard sometimes to think of authority and boundaries and peers when you have a precious two-year-old who is still such a big part of you. However, it is very important information for parents of small children to have because the foundation for this attachment is laid within the early years, and also because if one has the idea that gentle discipline does involve boundaries, that this is coming, it is not such a shock when the need arises for the functioning of the family and for the functioning of the children in society. Those of you who have read this book and have smaller (under the grades) aged children, is this book bothering you or making you think or are you disagreeing with it all? Please leave a comment!
I have to say I think that most of the chapter four in this book is right in line with this blog and my thoughts on parenting. Please do let me explain how I look at it; you all know I usually have a different way to look at things than most people, LOL.
I think this goes back to the question of what is power in parenting? What is authority in parenting? And the unspoken question of what is respect in parenting?
I respectfully disagree that power is typically exercised for the benefit of the powerful. That is misguided and abused power at its best. Power, in the hands of a moral and ethical person, carries great responsibility. Power is not something we hold over our children’s heads, but is intertwined with the authority we carry. Webster’s Dictionary says that authority IS power, “ the POWER to influence or command thought, opinion or behavior”, (you can see this definition from one of the very first posts I ever wrote, updated here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/10/06/back-to-basics-the-framework-for-gentle-discipline/).
I don’t believe I can earn authority. Authority in a formal setting or a job is granted. Authority in parenting comes just because you ARE the PARENT. The child is always worthy of dignity, of respect, of love, but YOU are the parent. And just by being the parent you have the authority and the power to guide your child.
The problem I see is that many parents do not lay down a basis of connection and attachment to their child and then have this rather empty gesture of trying to use force and “power” in the worst term and way as they become completely frustrated with their child’s behavior. They try to “power over” their children, and create this giant battlefield against their child. (You can see my post about The Battlefield of The Mind here:http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/22/the-battlefield-of-the-mind-anger-and-parenting/ ) These parents don’t see the child as one who has a different level of consciousness than an adult but as someone who needs coercion to do what needs to be done and be “obedient”. So yes, the parental “power and authority”,(which shouldn’t be dirty words but words that make the child feel safe in his or her world), get demonstrated badly.
Or contrast this to the other type of parents I see: those who do a stellar job of attachment and connection, but who do not hold any authority or power in their own homes. Their little children know no boundaries, and what was developmentally immature behavior turns into behavior that is disrespectful and impolite to adults outside of the family and infringes upon the needs of parents and the family as a whole. I alluded in my last post to the difficulty some parents have in switching gears in their parenting life once their first child goes through the first show of true “will”. This developmental stage is only followed by other stages where the child begins to show changes as they come into their bodies and themselves at the six/seven transformation, the nine year change, the twelve year change, not to mention the other developmental stages along the way!
What is lacking in both of these cases is the parent using power and authority as AUTHENTIC LEADERSHIP. One of my very first blog posts was this one regarding “Discipline As Authentic Leadership” : http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/10/16/gentle-discipline-as-authentic-leadership/. I just want to underscore that attachment and authority and providing boundaries and being consistent and yes, protection and bringing things in at the right time (which involves you stepping up and guiding your children according to your beliefs and values) are still hallmarks of good parenting.
Leadership uses authority and power in an authentic, loving, kind and constant way to guide the child. It cannot be earned, it is there because you are the parent! However, RESPECT can be earned and is important for the child to feel a sense of respect.
- You cannot earn your child’s respect if you never set any boundaries or if you set a boundary and never enforce it. (The side note and digression here: That sounds mean, but I disagree with the authors here when they say that parenting tools are not needed if connection is good. I think there are parenting tools for each seven year cycle, I think there are ways to talk to children in each of these cycles, and this is where I feel tools CAN be helpful to parents. We have lost so much of this view of what normal childhood development is that we need a bit of a reminder with what works best when).
- You cannot earn your child’s respect if you have no respect for yourself and put yourself completely dead last as a martyr taking care of your family and you have no boundaries for yourself.
- You cannot earn your child’s respect if you disintegrate into a ranting, yelling lunatic every time your child says they won’t eat their peas or wear their boots.
- You cannot earn your child’s respect if you never listen to them or spend time with them.
- You cannot earn your child’s respect if you and your partner cannot get on the same page regarding parenting and life. Sometimes in partnerships we lead, sometimes we follow. Model this for your child.
- You cannot earn your child’s respect if you have no rules and no ideas as to what sorts of things should happen when. When should your child have a Facebook page or a first sleep-over or get their ears pierced or be able to bike to the store? If you don’t know these things, how will your child?
Constancy. Authentic Leadership. Knowing what your values are as a family and guiding your children with that. Understanding the differences between parenting a three-year-old and a ten-year-old. Having tools at your disposal.
Anyway, thank you dear reader for a great comment and a great thought-provoking chapter! Take what resonates with you and your family. You are the expert on your own family.